A medicine used for treating the symptoms of the menopause is available over the counter for the first time in the UK from today.
Boots claims to be the first pharmacy in Britain first to sell hormone replacement therapy (HRT) without the need for a prescription.
The high street chain is offering Gina 10 microgram vaginal tablets over the counter, with a 24-pack costing £29.99.
It will be available, both in stores and online, for customers aged 50 and over who have not had a period in at least a year.
The tablets, containing the drug estradiol, are inserted directly into the vagina, and treat one of the symptoms of menopause, vaginal atrophy.
This occurs when oestrogen levels in the body lead to a thinning, drying and inflammation of the vaginal wall, resulting in dryness, soreness, itching, burning and uncomfortable sex.
Boots is launching the product on Thursday(8 September) and will roll it out across all stores by the end of October. The medicine, manufactured by Novo Nordisk, treats the condition by replacing the reduced oestrogen.
The drug was reclassified from a prescription-only medicine to a pharmacy medicine by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) earlier this year.
Before purchasing the treatment, women will have a consultation with a pharmacist to ensure it is the right medicine for them. Online consultations will also be available.
Bina Mehta, a pharmacist at Boots, said: “Oestrogen levels decline after the menopause and can lead to changes in vaginal health that cause uncomfortable symptoms like vaginal dryness and itching.
“Unlike other menopause symptoms, these are usually chronic and progressive and will not resolve without treatment.
“Menopause is a natural process and everyone’s experience is different.
“I encourage those who are going through any stage of the menopause to come and speak to their local pharmacist for personalised advice and recommendations alongside guidance, where appropriate, on how to optimise HRT treatments – we are here to help.”
When the drug was reclassified in July, the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare said the move would help address the "significant barriers to health management faced by women."
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The organisation, part of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, added: "We are wary of the prevalence of out-of-date and misleading information in relation to both HRT and vaginal oestrogen treatment.
"Therefore, it is important to ensure that product information for Gina does not simply duplicate that of systemic HRT, given that many of the purported risks in systemic HRT do not apply.
"Moreover, since Gina only addresses one of the many symptoms of menopause, women should continue to seek help from their GP or menopause care professional to manage other symptoms."