Pharmacists in England can now limit the amount of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) products women can access to help manage the severe shortage of the medication.
The Government issued three new Serious Shortage Protocols (SSPs) last week (29 April) to limit the dispensing of Oestrogel, Ovestin cream and Premique Low Dose to three months’ supply per person.
Imposing a three- month limit will mean more women are able to access the medication they want, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) explained.
It comes after the RPS called for pharmacists to be able to dispense substitutes for the out-of-stock HRT products without having to contact the prescriber.
The new SSPs, which are due to expire on 29 July, allow community pharmacists to supply less of the medicine if stocks are low without needing to seek authorisation from the prescriber, DHSC added.
The Government also said that women who have a prescription for more than three months’ supply will not have to pay additional prescription charges.
Announcing the SSP, health secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘I want to reassure women I have listened to their concerns and will not hesitate to take decisive action to ensure they can access the HRT they need.
‘We will leave no stone unturned in our national mission to boost supply of HRT – and this next step will ensure women across the UK will be able to reliably access this vital medication and maintain this lifeline for millions who need it.’
The shortage is due, in part, to a rise in demand as a result of a greater awareness around the menopause, with a 38% increase in the number of prescription items over the past seven years.
The scheme, which some thought was meant to begin ‘within months’, was first announced in October 2021 and has the potential to save individuals up to £205 by enabling women to pay one charge for a 12-month supply of HRT.
However, the scheme’s launch has already been delayed by a year. which pharmacy leaders have deemed ‘disappointing’. The Government now says this system will be implemented from April 2023.
The HRT shortages also come after prescription data, published last month, suggested HRT prescriptions had doubled over the last five years.