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PSNC: Contractors need ‘assurances’ on impact of HRT prescription changes

The government’s move to implement longer prescription cycles on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) could have “complex consequences” for pharmacy contractors, Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) director of pharmacy funding Mike Dent has said.

Working with NHS England and NHS Improvement, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) will move to cut the cost of repeatable HRT prescriptions and implement longer prescription cycles for the menopausal symptom treatment, it announced last week (October 29).

Patients seeking HRT treatment will “receive fewer prescriptions, reducing the need to pay frequent prescription charges”, the DH added.

However, Mr Dent argued that the potential impact of HRT prescription changes on pharmacy contractors still needs to be clarified.

“Changing periods of treatment can have complex consequences, and we will need assurances about any potential impact on community pharmacy contractors from this policy change”, Mr Dent told C+D yesterday (November 1).

“While in general PSNC welcomes moves to reduce the financial burden of healthcare on patients, prescribing policies remain a matter for the NHS,” he added.

Pharmacists will collect prescription charges for HRT medication “in the usual way” when a prescription is presented, a PSNC spokesperson told C+D.

The DH’s commitment to cut HRT charges came after Carolyn Harris MP’s second reading of the Menopause (Support and Services) Bill, which sought to make HRT treatment free of charge in England and implement the publication of a UK government-wide strategy on menopause support services and education.


HRT changes “a result for women across the country”


With implementation of longer prescription cycles for HRT treatment, patients could save up to £205 per year by paying one charge for up to a 12-month supply of HRT, according to the DH.

Because HRT contains both oestrogen and progesterone, it can sometimes be classed as two medicines, meaning “approximately 10%” of patients can be charged twice for one course of treatment. The government also committed to further improving access to HRT by “look[ing] into combining two hormone treatments into one prescription”, the DH added.

Ms Harris hailed the cut to HRT costs a “result for women across the country”. She will chair the cross-government Menopause Taskforce that was also formed last week, alongside the minister for women’s health Maria Caulfied – who was confirmed minister with responsibility for pharmacy in September.

Pharmacies have been dealing with significant HRT medicine shortages for a number of years. C+D reported that HRT is the category of medicines that is most often in shortage in pharmacies after conducting a survey in September 2019 showing that 84% of pharmacy teams had struggled to source them over a six month-period. 

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