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NI pharmacists can swap some Hormone Replacement Therapy products to address supply issue

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A woman applies an oestrogen patch for hormone replacement therapy (Alamy/PA)

A woman applies an oestrogen patch for hormone replacement therapy (Alamy/PA)

SDLP Sinead McLaughlin welcomes move

SDLP Sinead McLaughlin welcomes move

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A woman applies an oestrogen patch for hormone replacement therapy (Alamy/PA)

Northern Ireland pharmacists will be able to make swaps for some Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) products amid ongoing shortages of some products in the UK.

Products that may be substituted by a pharmacist without a new prescription from a doctor include some gels - Oestrogel and another called Sandrena.

Ovestin cream and a spray called Lenzetto are also on the list.

Pharmacists can also offer transdermal patches, which are in good supply. 

Health Minister Robin Swann said women should be able to access vital medicine “safely and effectively”. 

Community Pharmacy NI said the announcement means patients here “will have timely and continued access to medication as needed”.

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It’s after the Department of Health took measures in light of shortages, which allowed pharmacists to limit how many HRT prescriptions were issued of medicine in short supply. 

Minister Swann said: “Women’s health is a priority and it is imperative that women have access to hormone replacement products that are safe and effective.

“My Department has been working closely with colleagues across the UK to ensure HRT is available for everyone who needs it and I am pleased to see early action taken by the HRT Taskforce for the benefit of the whole UK, with suppliers continuing to increase the supply of some products which is a testament to the collaborative approach being taken.

“I will continue to work with my UK counterparts to ensure the long-term stability of supply for HRT products going forward.”

SDLP MLA Sinead McLaughlin said the shortage of the products was having a “significant impact” on women here.

"This was creating stress for people at what was already a difficult period in their lives. Other patients were unable to access medication for days at a time and really suffered as a result,” the Foyle politician said.

“It’s important that when we face problems like this we move quickly to find solutions. While I appreciate there is much work to be done to approve these kinds of measures, delays have a real impact on patients.

"I thank Minister Swann for listening to those in need of this medication and I hope this action will go some way to addressing the current shortage as we work to solve supply issues in the long-term.”

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SDLP Sinead McLaughlin welcomes move

SDLP Sinead McLaughlin welcomes move

SDLP Sinead McLaughlin welcomes move

Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, Cathy Harrison said: “Community pharmacists are ideally placed to support women with their health needs and these protocols give women the option to substitute products when their usual treatment is not available.

"This is a safe, effective way to ensure HRT continues to be available for those women who need it to manage their menopausal symptoms. It is also a vote of confidence in the ability of pharmacy teams to effectively manage supply disruptions and maintain patient care.

"Anyone who has questions or concerns about HRT should speak to their GP or pharmacist.”

Gerard Greene from Community Pharmacy NI – which represents local community pharmacies across the province – welcomed the new arrangements.

“This announcement means that patients will have timely and continued access to medication as needed, while taking steps to address the lengthy, often distressing waits many have been faced with in obtaining their HRT products,” he said.

“To date, community pharmacists have done their utmost to support patients throughout what is now recognised as a national shortage of HRT products. While it may be the case that patients are given a different product than they are used to, the intent of this policy is protecting continuity of supply of HRT medicines for patients during these challenging times.”


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