Rip Off New Zealand – Pharmacy Prices a Bitter Pill

scrooge

Some NZ pharmacists have lost the true meaning of Christmas.

.Shame on the pharmacists of New Zealand who over charge sick tourists during holiday periods.

New Zealand’s pharmacy prices are already among the highest in the OECD with a wholesale mark up of 10% over the manufacturer’s price plus the pharmacy’s mark up (in the USA the wholesale mark up is around 2-4 %). But that doesn’t stop unscrupulous owners from over charging visitors who need essential medications.

How many pharmacists do you know in New Zealand who brag about how much money they’re making. It’s all well and good to get on in life and good luck to them, but at what cost to the sick and needy?

One chemist in a holiday area was charging an additional $10 per prescription, supposedly to cover staff holiday pay rates, on Boxing Day. In parallels to a famous Dickensian tale, the medication was to treat a small boy’s leg infection. According to an article in today’s NZ Herald

Kathryn Trotter was surprised when Waihi Beach Chemist charged an extra $10 for a prescription on Boxing Day. Trotter’s eight-year-old son Alex required antibiotics for an infection on his legs… Waihi Beach Chemist manager Sara Preston said staff wouldn’t charge the surcharge in an “absolute emergency”.

We use our discretion. It’s a maximum of $10 per prescription,” she said. “If it was seven items we wouldn’t [charge $70 extra].”
Here’s another example, this time from Reddit r/newzealand. This is a discussion held with a pharmacist in a south Island tourist township with an active summer tourism industry (posted Boxing Day Dec 2014).
Is this type of ‘twin pricing’ common practice in New Zealand, is it legal to charge tourists a different rate to locals, is it ethical?
We only surcharge scripts to non-locals today
scrooge2014

Screen shot of a reddit thread sent to us by a reader

The NZ Herald polled its readership to see what they think about pharmacists racking up their charges over Christmas. This is the result
..
 charges
How to avoid being over-charged
 .
One of our readers, Terri, kindly sent in the following information:
.

“Avalon’s Guide recommends using OneClick Pharmacy. She worked in a pharmacy for 10 years and knows that people are getting ripped off. She says she saves around $200 an order by getting it from the UK. I’ve not used it myself but I’ll going to give it a go”. http://www.avalonsguide.com/anab/2012/08/oneclick-pharmacy-is-it-worth-the-hassle

As you know, I refuse to pay the extortionate prices that NZ pharmacies charge for basic painkillers, and switched to buying from the UK based OneClick Pharmacy, saving hundreds of dollars on each order. I buy as much stuff as I can, because the prices are – basically – fantastic after putting up with the NZ overcharging for 7 years, so my orders usually come to within 80-150 range quite easily. That’s a lot of money to spend at a pharmacy in the UK. To be honest – in 10 years of working in pharmacies, I don’t think Ive ever taken a payment that high without it being for some sort of Machine, or a private prescription for something really out of the ordinary. But at that kind of level, I am actually saving about $200 per order on what it would cost me here. So, I am prepared to put up with some crap service, SLOOOOOW service, and a bit of annoyance.”

Avalon’s Guide told us

Phillip Owen told us

“You don’t have to order from abroad just shop around. The Herald did an investigation into the standard price for prescription drugs and said consumers could save thousands. They randomly selected 10 pharmacies in Auckland, Tauranga and Hamilton and asked for the price of six common medications.

one month’s supply of cholesterol management drug Vytorin was $120 at Auckland’s Westfield St Lukes – $16 more than average and $41 more than the cheapest outlet, Waugh’s Pharmacy in Tauranga. The best value Avigra, a generic brand of the sex drug Viagra, was 20 per cent cheaper than the standard rate and hair-loss drug Propecia cost between $123 and $97. By shopping around you could save nearly $1 a tablet or $1679 over five years” from Consumer Watchdog: Cheap Drugs http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10767264

Under circumstances where people are denied freedom of choice we advise them to make full use of online pharmacy services as much as possible whilst in New Zealand. .Do you know of a rip-off pharmacy or grossly inflated prices? Have you ever not filled a prescription because of the cost? What’s the most you’ve ever been charged for a box of aspirin in New Zealand? Know a pharmacist that’s getting rich off the poor of the land? Have any tips on how to get around the grossly inflated prices ? We’d like to hear from you.

You may also be interested in

Seasickness medication not always available in Kaikoura. If you’re visiting Kaikoura take your own from home, there is only one chemist in town and he has no sympathy with those who think seasickness meds are available over the counter in NZ, or that they’ll be able to shop for them at hours that match up with tour boats departures…

“I have people call me after hours, on Sunday mornings, asking for medication.

“I had a woman call me on a Sunday morning and ask me ‘Am I not obligated to help’. I’ve had this discussion a thousand times. Individuals are responsible for their own health and well-being.”

McKee said complaints often mention countries where the drugs are available over the counter, but his response is that many dangerous and illegal drugs area also easily available… more

Tough luck if you’re used to picking up your Kwells with a loaf of bread and a ripe Brie at Asda, or Tesco.

Visiting NZ? take your own meds with you.

More Rip Off NZ Stories

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30 thoughts on “Rip Off New Zealand – Pharmacy Prices a Bitter Pill

  1. I noticed the following headline today. The rip off also rears itself in the manipulation of and pressure put on social service agencies.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/76957685/government-agencies-inventing-numbers-to-meet-targets-says-report

    I was also interested to read yesterday that New Zealand has a chronic shortage of prison beds. Prison facilities in several areas have been closed in recent years due to forecast drop in demand. This website has been making the point for a long time that there is something seriously wrong in New Zealand in the whole judicial system. I think you can give yourself a pat on the back as we can now see proof that despite lenient sentences, manipulation of crime statistics and continually touted drops in the level of crime the demand for prison facilities is going up considerably. There seems to be a body showing up somewhere virtually everyday and curiously a murder in another country usually gets more news publicity than the perhaps 5 that happen in NZ in any given week. Most of these 5 will probably not reach the crime statistics but if you keep half an eye on the media you notice several each week.

    Like

    • Lately there has been a trend for the media to describe them as “unexplained deaths” as if it is code for violent assaults. Hardly a day goes by without one being reported. Many of them will be passed off as manslaughter… easier to prove in court than murder.

      Like

      • Yes, for example the “unexplained” death of a pensioner last week and his house being riddled with bullet holes. I think we can put 2 + 2 together.

        Like

  2. Dat dere free market capitalism.
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/76928202/excruciating-pain-looms-for-patients-as-pharmac-runs-out-of-cluster-headache-drug
    “After scouring the country, John has enough medicine to last a fortnight. Maybe.

    Then it’s the screaming pain like a red hot poker to the eye, up to five times a day, so excruciating that people have killed themselves rather than endure it.

    “It’s the most painful process that a human being can experience,” he says.

    John, not his real name, suffers from chronic cluster headaches, often called “suicide headaches”. There is only one drug available in New Zealand, Sumatriptaninjections, that keeps the pain at bay.

    READ MORE: Patients regularly face medicine shortages in New Zealand

    In December, the supply of Sumatriptan injections ran out, and state drug funding agency Pharmac is not able to say when more will be sourced.

    For John, running out of the drug will cost him his job and possibly his sanity. For 14 years, Sumatriptan has kept him functioning, holding down a senior management job.”

    Part of the conspiracy theorist in me is thinking what a great excuse this will be for people to fly off the handle and assault others, the other part is how this will be used to change certain laws and deny due process.

    On the flip side, if someone has a senior management post for 14 years, don’t they have enough money to stock up?
    Or do senior managers in New Zealand live off of fresh air and sunshine?

    Like

  3. Anything to make life more bearable!

    Viagra in rip off NZ? way out of the reach of the thousands of men who need it. To get around it the generic form (sildenafil) is available directly from trained pharmacists, without a GP’s prescription. But the real reason is because Medsafe thought a restricted medicine category would prevent its investigation and enforcement team from being able to intercept sildenafil at the border. Can’t have people importing it from cheaper countries!

    Cannabis hasn’t be legalized, yet. Those blasted yanks get the drop on everything, am I right?

    Like

  4. There’s an interesting report about pill branding and overcharging http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/67071053/nurofen-faces-packaging-lawsuit
    Note the prices in New Zealand, compare them to Australian prices for the same product

    24 Nurofen back pain in Australia $10.99 http://www.chemistwarehouse.com.au/product.asp?id=6747&pname=Nurofen+200mg+Tablets+24

    24 Nurofen back pain in New Zealand $20.

    Looks like Kiwis are getting ripped off twice.

    Like

  5. E2NZ Have you seen these prices Boots wins hands down in the alt meds scene too 72 tabs for $9 NZ.

    Five of the best… travel sickness remedies

    1. Stugeron pack of 15 tablets, £2.10

    2. Boots Alternative Travel Sickness Relief 72 tablets, £4.50

    3. Kwells 12 tablets, £1.89

    4. Phenergan Elixir 100ml, £3.42

    5. Boots Motion Sickness Bands Pack of two, £7.82

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1199016/Five-best–travel-sickness-remedies.html#ixzz2p6LemnMx
    Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

    Like

  6. I bought some kaikoura cracker pills from the town chemist to stop getting seasick.Like most things in the town they were expensive.They didn’t work for me but I couldn’t be bothered to ask for a refund.Boots own brand are cheap as chips and work well but forgot to take them with me.

    Like

    • When I go out on the water I take a quell an hr before and haven’t had a problem. I’ve not tried the crackers but the price puts me off and there’s no guarantee they’re going to work. It made this family sick.

      “Apparently, my mom and brother were not too keen on throwing up for however long we were on the water, so they got this seasickness pill called the Kaikoura Kracker, which everyone said worked brilliantly, but just ended up making them sick and dizzy… However, they managed to recover, and we found our tour.

      http://ramblingsofanhonorarykiwi.blogspot.com.au/2010/03/kaikoura-whale-watching.html

      Opinions about how well they work may depend on who’s selling them to you.

      Like

    • One of the benefits of using mainstream pharmaceuticals is that they’ve been clinically tried and tested so you’re entitled to an expectation they will work.

      There appears to be a huge market for alternative treatments in New Zealand. Unfortunately those treatments aren’t any cheaper than what the big pharma put out and they often haven’t been clinically trialled.

      Like

    • Morris, that’s quite a large mark up. We took a look at the epipen.co.uk website and found single doses for £26.45 and double for £52.90. Chemist Direct sells it for £36.47 but that is on a private prescription. (source). We’re guessing with a NHS script it would be £7.85 which is appreciably cheaper?

      each prescribed item, regardless of nature or quantity, costs £7.85. A prescription pre-payment certificate (or PPC) can be bought for £104.00, and covers unlimited prescriptions for 12 months. Alternatively, 3-monthly PPCs may be bought for £29.10 (Prices as of 1st April 2013). PPCs are sold to the public by the NHS Business Services Authority.

      source

      The $135 price tag appears to be the going rate in New Zealand: not a great place to have a life threatening condition. Unfortunately migrants won’t be able to stock up before they enter New Zealand as this treatment has a limited shelf life.

      Anyone want to comment on diabetes treatment?

      Like

  7. Terri you don’t have to order from abroad just shop around.

    The Herald did an investigation into the standard price for prescription drugs and said consumers could save thousands.

    They randomly selected 10 pharmacies in Auckland, Tauranga and Hamilton and asked for the price of six common medications.

    “one month’s supply of cholesterol management drug Vytorin was $120 at Auckland’s Westfield St Lukes – $16 more than average and $41 more than the cheapest outlet, Waugh’s Pharmacy in Tauranga.

    The best value Avigra, a generic brand of the sex drug Viagra, was 20 per cent cheaper than the standard rate and hair-loss drug Propecia cost between $123 and $97.

    By shopping around you could save nearly $1 a tablet or $1679 over five years”

    from Consumer Watchdog: Cheap Drugs http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10767264

    Like

    • Thanks Phillip.

      That’s an incredible range of prices. It definitely proves it pays to shop around, though Tauranga may be rather too far for most people.

      Has anyone used online pharmacies in New Zealand and are they good value for money?

      This sector obviously does need more competition, especially in the small towns where patients only have a single pharmacist.

      Like

  8. Avalon’s Guide recommends using OneClick Pharmacy. She worked in a pharmacy for 10 years and knows that people are getting ripped off. She says she saves around $200 an order by getting it from the UK. I’ve not used it myself but I’ll going to give it a go.

    http://www.avalonsguide.com/anab/2012/08/oneclick-pharmacy-is-it-worth-the-hassle

    As you know, I refuse to pay the extortionate prices that NZ pharmacies charge for basic painkillers, and switched to buying from the UK based OneClick Pharmacy, saving hundreds of dollars on each order.

    I buy as much stuff as I can, because the prices are – basically – fantastic after putting up with the NZ overcharging for 7 years, so my orders usually come to within 80-150 range quite easily.

    That’s a lot of money to spend at a pharmacy in the UK. To be honest – in 10 years of working in pharmacies, I don’t think Ive ever taken a payment that high without it being for some sort of Machine, or a private prescription for something really out of the ordinary.

    But at that kind of level, I am actually saving about $200 per order on what it would cost me here.

    So, I am prepared to put up with some crap service, SLOOOOOW service, and a bit of annoyance.

    Like

    • Thanks Terri, we’ll make sure we pass that information on to our readers and amend the article to include it.

      Any more tips on how to save pharmacy costs in New Zealand? especially for parents with young children who find medical costs quite a burden.

      Let’s do what we can to help.

      Like

      • Why does that Avalon person keep recommending that people move to New Zealand? Surely a practice like that tells everything about the grasping, amoral kind of country it is?

        Like

  9. Overcharging has been going on for years. Pharmacies were ripping off parents with inflated prices for Neocate hypoallergenic baby formula when we lived in New Zealand.

    Like

    • we called it the Migrant Surcharge when we lived there. All you had to do was open your mouth and the price of anything would tick up, whatever they thought they could get away with charging you. They were especially brazen with Americans.

      Like

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