One in three people with rheumatoid arthritis in England are not taking their medicine as prescribed because of cost, according to The National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS).

Thirty-one percent of patients reported not having picked up their medicines because of the price a prescription, while three-quarters (76 percent) said they are not aware of the NHS Low Income Scheme, which means that many patients are unnecessarily paying for treatment, the Society said.

Furthermore, half of people with RA surveyed do not have a Prescription Prepayment Certificate (PPC), which reduces the cost of prescriptions for patients with eligible long-term conditions, while 55 percent of those that missed medications due to the cost said it has had a direct and noticeably negative impact on their health.

“RA is a debilitating, frightening and potentially life-limiting condition. The fact that so many people living with this disease are failing to get the help their GPs prescribe in terms of medication is a travesty,” said Ailsa Bosworth, NRAS chief executive. “Everyone, regardless of their medical condition, should receive the medication they need to manage their health and improve their daily life.”

Release of these figures follows publication of the Still Paying the Price report by the Prescription Charges Coalition, which is co-chaired by the NRAS, showing that 33 percent of people in England with a long-term condition paying for their prescriptions has not collected their medicine because of cost.

England is now the only UK nation charging for prescriptions, with charges having been scrapped in Wales in 2007, Northern Ireland in 2010 and Scotland in 2011.

While around 90 percent of prescriptions in England are currently dispensed without charge, the majority of the remainder are paid for by working-age people with long-term conditions, with only “a handful” of illnesses qualifying for a PPC, the report notes.

The Coalition has been arguing for years that the PPC should be extended to all patients with a long-term condition, and that information about the scheme should be provided at diagnosis to ensure maximum take-up.