An all-party group of MPs has called for the government to create a national formulary for hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
The recommendation came in the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Menopause’s report that presents the results of its ‘Inquiry to assess the impacts of menopause and the case for policy reform’, published on 12 October 2022.
The report said a national formulary for HRT would “ensure that medical professionals can access the most accurate guidance on prescribing the treatment” and “improve equity of access”.
The group made 12 other recommendations, including offering all women aged over 45 years a health check to diagnose early menopause; the inclusion of menopause in the ‘GP quality and outcomes framework’ to improve menopause diagnosis and treatment; and for HRT prescription fees to be scrapped.
While HRT will be available at a reduced cost on prescription from April 2023, the report points out that 39% of women in a recent survey spend between £51 and £150 per year on HRT, with another 20% paying more than £150 per year and others paying more than £300 annually.
“The cost of HRT … remains a barrier for some women,” it said.
“Despite committing to reduce HRT prescription costs in October 2021, the government is not due to introduce the pre-payment certificate … until April 2023 — 18 months later.
“HRT is not a luxury and it ought to be freely available for all who wish to use it … as is the case in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.”
There have been HRT shortages in the UK since 2018 and, in May 2022, the NHS issued ten serious shortage protocols (SSPs), following three previous HRT SSPs, which enabled pharmacists to restrict the amount supplied to patients, or make substitutions, without having to contact the patient’s GP.
NHS data published on 6 October 2022 showed that the number of HRT products prescribed in England increased by a third in one year, from 5.8 million items in 2020/2021 to 7.8 million items in 2021/2022.
Thorrun Govind, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society English Pharmacy Board, commented: “[The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Menopause’s report] is a welcome call to action to support women’s health, with clear opportunities to improve diagnosis and treatment of menopause.
“This report rightly highlights the impact of prescription charges on health inequalities and I would urge the government to scrap prescription charges in England altogether.
“Amid a cost of living crisis, it is incredible that England is the only part of the UK where people still have to pay for their prescriptions.”