Boots becomes first pharmacy to offer HRT medication without prescription

Boots has become the first pharmacy to sell hormone replacement therapy (HRT) over the counter without requiring a prescription.

The medication, which is used to treat symptoms of menopause, will be available at more than 590 Boots stores and on its website as a pharmacy medicine from Thursday 8 September.

The Gina 10mg vaginal tablet, a locally acting oestrogen HRT, is the only treatment available without a prescription that is clinically proven to target and treat the cause of vaginal atrophy and its associated symptoms after menopause.

The pills were reclassified from a prescription-only medication to a pharmacy medicine earlier this year by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

It is the first time the regulator has reclassified a hormone replacement product as a pharmacy medicine and will improve access to HRT treatment throughout the UK.

It comes after demand for HRT products increased sharply over the summer as supply chain issues led to a shortage in the medication, which benefits around 13 million people who are currently peri or menopausal in the UK.

A Channel 4 documentary presented by Davina McCall titled Sex, Myths and the Menopause, which aired in May 2021, was also cited as a reason for the surge in demand.

A consultation held by MHRA over the reclassification of the Gina tablets received an “unprecedented” 1,229 responses, with the majority (88 per cent) supporting the proposal.

The medication is suitable for women aged 50 and over who haven’t had a period in at least a year, and can help relieve symptoms such as vaginal dryness, itching, soreness and uncomfortable sex.

It will be available at Boots as a pack of 24 vaginal tablets for £29.99 and will be stocked at all Boots stores by the end of October, the high street retailer said.

Patients who are unable to afford to purchase the medication can still get it and other HRT medications through the NHS for the price of the prescription or free to those who do not pay for prescriptions.

Bina Mehta, a pharmacist at Boots, explained: “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.

“Applied directly to the vagina, Gina works by gradually releasing a low dose of oestrogen into the vagina tissue to improve flexibility and elasticity and replenish moisture.”

Anne Higgins, pharmacy director at Boots, added: “Boots has been supporting women for over 170 years and today is another important milestone in women’s health.

“As a pharmacy medicine, Gina is more accessible to patients as they no longer need a prescription from their GP. Boots pharmacists are highly trained healthcare professionals and from today our pharmacy teams can offer this treatment to patients following a short consultation with no appointment needed.”