The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is considering making certain tablets that combat vaginal dryness – a symptom of menopause – available via consultation with a pharmacist. Healthcare workers told Express.co.uk they hope the move will ‘help some women access the medicines they need’, including those ‘who are too shy to talk to their GP’ .
A representative for a pharmacist said the proposal demonstrated the accumulated “trust” in pharmacists – who have remained the only in-person source of day-to-day healthcare during the long periods of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, while the proposed reclassification would see fewer postmenopausal women needing to attend doctors’ surgeries, it is unlikely to reduce the huge NHS backlog caused by the pandemic.
Last week the MHRA opened a public consultation on whether to reclassify Gina 10 microgram vaginal tablets as available over the counter without the need to see a GP.
The tablets treat vaginal dryness, which is caused by estrogen deficiency in postmenopausal women.
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Dr Laura Squire, Head of Healthcare Quality and Access at the MHRA, said: ‘Menopause can cause unpleasant symptoms and HRT medicines are an important part of alleviating these.
“That’s why it’s so important for us to hear what women think about this possible reclassification.”
The move is part of a wider desire by Health Secretary Sajid Javid to shift more care for minor ailments to pharmacies to free up GP appointments amid the backlog.
Malcolm Harrison, CEO of the Company Chemists’ Association, which represents large pharmacy chains such as Boots, Lloydspharmacy and Well pharmacy, welcomed the potential reclassification.
He told this website: “This decision recognizes the accessibility of pharmacies and the trust people have in pharmacists.”
Asked if it would help health inequalities for women in the UK, Mr Harrison said: ‘It will help some women to access the medicines they need, which is welcome.’
Peter Joseph, a GP based in west London, said: ‘Those only women who know […] who will go to their pharmacist and ask for it. Or some knowledgeable women who are too shy to talk to their GP about it.
He added: “For most women, it’s a safe thing to do and a safe thing to use. But there are caveats to this, like most things.
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Dr Joseph said his “anxiety” around the move centered on the possibility “that GPs probably wouldn’t be informed, so they wouldn’t know people were taking them”.
He continued: ‘People could start taking them if they have breast cancer, which is probably safe, but normally we would have an oncology opinion before starting any form of HRT with someone who has a history. of breast cancer. Or people might take them with undiagnosed vaginal bleeding.
Dr Joseph also expressed concern that the move would further increase the workload for pharmacists, at a time when there is a nationwide shortage of pharmacy staff in the UK.
Pharmacists report an increasingly demanding workload since the start of the pandemic.
Dr Joseph said: ‘I know our pharmacists are terribly loaded, they are very busy, so if they will have the time to do it.
“And there is also the issue of not being on the GP records; there is no integration between pharmacist records and GP records, so that would be my concern. »
While pharmacists and general practitioners are currently able to communicate electronically about patients’ medical needs, pharmacists have limited access to a patient’s summary care record.
However, Mr Harrison dismissed those concerns, saying pharmacists, as fellow qualified healthcare professionals, would never seek to compromise patient safety.
He said: ‘Pharmacists will only supply this medicine in accordance with its licence, and if that includes taking a full patient history, then that will be done.
“This process may add to the workload, but pharmacists will not compromise on safety.
“We recognize that improvements can be made to the way patient records are accessed in the NHS and we are actively working with many parts of the NHS to find solutions.”