Prescription charges

Key points about prescription charges

  • In Aotearoa New Zealand, from 1st July 2023, some medicines will be fully subsidised (funded) by the government so you won’t need to pay for them.
  • The cost of medicines in Aotearoa New Zealand depends on a number of factors, eg, immigration status, your age, if you have a community services card, how much the medicine is subsidised and who has prescribed the medicine.
  • Find out more about prescription charges.
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Below is a summary table of the prescription charges from 1 July 2023 for a subsidised medicine.

Additional charges will apply for partially subsidised or medicines that are not subsidised. 

Patient category Prescription from GP or hospital Prescription from specialist

(no CSC)

Prescription from specialist

(with CSC)

  • Child under 14 years of age
Free Free Free
  • Adult
  • Child 14 years and older
  • Public Hospital specialist Free
  • Private specialist $15 (adult), $10 (14 years and older)
  • Public Hospital specialist Free
  • Private specialist or dentist $5
  • Non-resident
  • Visitor
Pay in full Pay in full  Pay in full

The cost you pay for prescriptions depends on a number of factors, including:

  • Your immigration status (whether you're a resident or non-resident of Aotearoa New Zealand or Australia).
  • Your age.
  • If you have a Community services card.
  • If the medicine is fully subsidised, partially subsidised, or not subsidised.
  • The prescriber, eg, if they are a GP, public hospital specialist or dentist, private specialist or dentist.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, if you are a citizen or permanent resident, or hold a work permit for more than 2 years in a row, you're eligible for funded prescription medicines.

Visitors or non-residents are not eligible for funded medicines unless they are:

  • an Australian citizen
  • a citizen of the United Kingdom
  • a permanent resident of Australia who has lived in Aotearoa New Zealand for 2 years or more or needs immediate treatment.

Read more about health agreements with Australia and the United Kingdom(external link).

Medicines in Aotearoa New Zealand have different levels of subsidy, or funding. This is called the prescription subsidy scheme. A subsidy is the amount funded (paid for) by the government.

There are 3 categories of funding:

  • fully subsidised
  • partially subsidised
  • not subsidised.

PHARMAC(external link) decides which medicines are subsidised and by how much. These medicines are listed in the Pharmaceutical schedule.  (external link)

Medicines that are fully subsidised (funded) won't cost anything unless they are prescribed by a specialist or dentist in private practice.

These medicines are only partially subsidised or funded by the government. This means you need to pay for part of the medicine, the government subsidises the rest. The amount you pay depends on how much the medicine costs and how much the government pays, and how much you have been prescribed.

Some medicines aren't subsidised at all by the government so you will need to pay the full cost. It doesn’t make any difference who prescribes the medicine. How much you pay depends on how much the medicine costs plus any dispensing fee and mark up charged by the pharmacy. The final price can vary, so it's best to check with the pharmacy first. Make sure you tell the pharmacy the exact name and strength of the medicine and how much you need.

Unsubsidised medicines also include medicines that are bought over-the-counter (OTC) without a prescription.

A special authority is where a prescriber applies for a subsidy for a particular person for a certain medicine. Not all medicines have a special authority and criteria must be met before this is approved. These criteria ensure access to medicines is available for those who would benefit most. Once approved, a special authority number will be provided. Some special authority numbers are only valid for a period of time and must be renewed when they expire.

A prescription subsidy card reduces costs for families/whānau and people who are prescribed a lot of medicines. You are eligible for the subsidy once you have paid for 20 new subsidised prescription medicine items from 1 February to 31 January each year. From 1 July 2023, only subsidised medicines prescribed by a private specialist or dentist will contribute towards the 20 items.

  • You can combine prescription items for your partner and dependent children aged from 14–18 years old.
  • Any medicines that are free don't count towards the total.

Where can I get a prescription subsidy card?

You can get this card through your pharmacy. Your pharmacy will keep count of the number of medicines that contribute towards the card.

If you tell your pharmacy the name of your partner and dependent family/whānau members, the pharmacy can add how many medicines have been paid by them and combine your total. 

Pharmacy systems are not all linked, so pharmacies don't always know what you, your partner and dependent family/whānau get from another pharmacy. If you all visit different pharmacies, keep all the receipts. Show them to 1 pharmacy, so they can keep a record of your total prescription count in their system. 

The Community Services Card (CSC) is based on your family/whānau's income. If any family/whānau member's income before tax (gross) is below the amount set by the Ministry of Health, you can get a CSC. You can get this card through Work and Income NZ (WINZ) or the Ministry of Social Development (MSD). Read more about applying for a CSC(external link).(external link)

Having a CSC may lower the cost of GP visits (this depends on the GP practice) and private specialist prescription charges.

The SuperGold card is for New Zealand residents aged 65 years or over, or people who qualify for New Zealand superannuation or a veteran’s pension. It replaces the Super Card and the CSC. If you are eligible for a CSC, the SuperGold Card will show that on the card.

Prescription charges from specialists differ depending on whether the prescription is from a specialist in a public hospital (free) or a privately funded hospital or practice ($15 for an adult or $10 for children aged 14 years and over).

This is because private healthcare providers don’t receive funding or subsidies for providing health services.

Free collection of prescription items [PDF, 209 KB] Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora Māori Health Authority
Prescription charges and the prescription subsidy scheme(external link) Manatū Hauora Ministry of Health, NZ
Collecting and paying for medicines(external link) PHARMAC, NZ
Free health checks for children under 14(external link) New Zealand Government

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Credits: Healthify He Puna Waiora editorial team. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland.

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