Hormone replacement therapy ‘could be made available over the counter’

The drugs could become more accessible to millions, as Reporter Chloe Keedy reports

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) could be made available over the counter depending on the outcome of a consultation, reports suggest.

According to the Daily Telegraph, health watchdogs are expected to propose a reclassification of the medication, which would allow women to access it in a pharmacy without a prescription.

It is not known at this stage exactly which HRT product will be part of the proposal. The medication is used to offset the symptoms of menopause.

The government recently made moves to increase the accessibility of the medication.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We understand that for some women menopause symptoms can have a significant impact on their quality of life, and we are committed to improving the care and support they receive.

“That’s why we’re developing the first ever government-led Women’s Health Strategy, informed by women’s lived experience.

“Menopause, including improving access to Hormone Replacement Therapy, will be a priority under the Strategy.”

When asked in Prime Minister's Questions about plans on Thursday, Boris Johnson told MPs that menopause "will be a priority within our women's health strategy" and the government will establish a UK-wide menopause taskforce.

"We are committed to improving menopause care so all women can have access to the support they need and to manage the symptoms," the PM said.

It is not known at this stage exactly which HRT product will be part of the proposal. Credit: Julien Behal/PA

In October, it was announced the cost of repeat prescriptions for HRT would be significantly reduced in England, following a high profile campaign backed by politicians and celebrities.

Instead of paying for repeat prescriptions every month, women can get one batch of them for up to a year with one signature and one prescription charge.

Previously, it was costing up to £18.70 a month for HRT but under the new plans it costs the same for an entire year's supply, saving women £205.

Former model Penny Lancaster previously told ITV News that the prime minister's wife Carrie will hit menopause at some point and he will be "regretting the day that he never gave women" free HRT treatment.

"It just breaks my heart that there are so many who are suffering" - Penny Lancaster

She emotionally explained how the menopause had impacted her life and said she is "getting there" after two months taking HRT treatment, but said "sometimes I bawl my eyes out" when she has "no reason to be upset and crying".

Ms Lancaster was among dozens of women, including Davina McCall and Mariella Frostrup, who attended a protest outside Parliament, who called on the government to take their pledge one step further and provide free menopause treatment.

Ms Lancaster added: "There are many marriages falling apart, women are having to give up careers because of the symptoms, doctors are needlessly giving women antidepressants - that's a cost in itself, so why not just give women the treatment they need, and why should they have to pay for it?"

The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures showed suicide rates in women of menopausal age have risen despite falling numbers of older women taking their own lives.

Suicide rates for women aged 45 to 54 – the most common age for perimenopause and menopause – have risen 6% in 20 years, the ONS said in November, last year.

Symptoms of menopause:

  • Forgetfulness

  • Hot flushes

  • Anxiety

  • Headaches

  • Itchy skin

  • Night sweats

  • Brain fog

  • Low or non-existent sex drive

Who to contact if you or someone you know needs help

  • Samaritans operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year, by calling 116 123. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org

  • Papyrus offer support for children and young people under the age of 35 over the phone on 0800 068 41 41 between 9am – midnight every day of the year. If you would rather text you can do so on 07786 209697 or send an email to pat@papyrus-uk.org

  • Rethink Mental Illness offer practical advice and information for anyone affected by mental health problems on a wide range of topics including treatment, support and care. Phone 0300 5000 927 (Mon-Fri 9.30am-4pm) or visit rethink.org

  • Mind also offer mental health support between 9am and 6pm, Monday to Friday. You can call them on 0300 123 3393 or text them on 86463. There is also lots of information available on their website.

  • Campaign Against Living Miserably's (CALM) helpline and webchat are open from 5pm until midnight, 365 days a year. Call CALM on 0800 58 58 58 or chat to their trained helpline staff online. No matter who you are or what you're going through, it's free, anonymous and confidential.

If you have an emergency and a life is in danger, contact the emergency services on 999.