The Daily Telegraph

Hormone replacemen­t pills made available over counter

- By Laura Donnelly HEALTH EDITOR

HORMONE replacemen­t therapy will be sold over the counter for the first time today, at almost 600 branches of Boots.

Until now, women have only been able to access the medication after consultati­on with a GP or specialist.

Every year, around 1.5 million women experience postmenopa­usal symptoms including hot flushes, night sweats, sleep disturbanc­e and emotional issues.

Of those, around 150,000 are prescribed HRT in the form of tablets, gels, creams or patches.

From today, a locally acting tablet called Gina will be available over the counter at Boots.

The low-dose treatment for women over the age of 50 who have not had a period for a year is designed to treat vaginal symptoms such as dryness.

It follows a reclassifi­cation of the medication by medical watchdogs, revealed by The Daily Telegraph this year.

It also comes after a long campaign to improve access to HRT.

Manufactur­ers said the weekly cost of treatment would amount to £2.50, after two weeks on higher doses costing less than £5 a week.

The treatment remains available via NHS prescripti­on, which costs £9.35 per item, for those who are not exempt. The vaginal tablets, which until now have only been available on prescripti­on under the name Vagifem, are a form of HRT that treats vaginal dryness caused by oestrogen deficiency in postmenopa­usal women.

Boots said the tablets would be at 590 stores from today, and at all branches by the end of October.

Gina treats and relieves the symptoms of vaginal atrophy, the thinning, drying and inflammati­on of the vaginal wall caused by reduced oestrogen levels in the body as a result of menopause.

Symptoms include vaginal dryness, itching, burning, soreness and uncomforta­ble sex.

Gina comes in a pre-loaded applicator that delivers a low dose of oestrogen directly to the vaginal wall, replacing lost oestrogen where it is needed, providing symptom relief from eight to 12 weeks.

Before buying the treatment, patients will have a consultati­on with a pharmacist, who will ask them a few questions to ensure it is suitable for them. The pills are also available online at boots. com, following an online consultati­on.

Bina Mehta, a pharmacist at Boots, said: “Gina works by gradually releasing a low dose of oestrogen into the vaginal tissue to improve flexibilit­y and elasticity and replenish moisture.”

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