HRT to be available over the counter—progress praised but experts say it's the tip of the iceberg

Hormone replacement therapy will soon be available to purchase over the counter, but how can you get it and what are the effects?

HRT to be available over the counter
(Image credit: Peter Dazeley / Getty Images)

HRT will soon be available to purchase over the counter in the UK, but is this a good idea? Here is everything you need to know about HRT becoming a non-prescription drug.

It was announced by the Telegraph that a change of legislation around HRT has been proposed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) who wish to make the product available over the counter.

HRT has many different side effects and is predominately used by women who are going through menopause. It is a drug that for many is a vital lifeline, so the new announcement about it becoming an over-the-counter drug has caused controversy.

HRT

HRT patch

(Image credit: Peter Dazeley / Getty Images)

Is HRT being available over the counter a good thing?

Haitham Hamoda, the chairman of the British Menopause Society, told the Telegraph, "Improving access to HRT is a good thing, but it is really important that women can access all the help and advice they need."

"It's great that there is so much conversation about menopause now, and people are far more open about it. But we don't want this to come down to a question of self-diagnosis—it's really important that those thinking about starting HRT get the right information."

On BBC Breakfast this morning Dr. Nigat Arif told Dan Walker and Sally Nugent that this move is 'definitely progress'. The women's health campaigner and doctor said, "It's about time that we are able to treat women over the counter because women make the right decisions, they're intelligent enough, they are sensible enough."

However, this announcement has also sparked some concern. One Twitter commenter said, "Not convinced that over-the-counter HRT is a good thing. We already get very little care through menopause—now we get to self-diagnose and self-prescribe? What about monitoring? What if the symptoms aren't menopause-related!!"

Others have also suggested that making the treatment available over the counter is not enough. "Just heard on the news that HRT might be changed to over the counter. Next stop, make it free. It’s not like we can do anything to avoid menopause," said another Twitter user.

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How can you get HRT?

Hormone medicines such as Viagra, the contraceptive pill, and the emergency contraceptive pill (commonly referred to as the morning-after pill), have all been available over the counter for some time.

At present, those who are interested in trying HRT have to get a GP appointment and prescription assigned to them. 

By making HRT available over the counter, access to the drug directly in pharmacies will mean that delays caused by busy GP surgeries will likely be lowered. 

HRT

HRT

(Image credit: B. BOISSONNET /BSIP / Getty Images)

How much will HRT cost?

Until October 2021, people interested in being prescribed HRT incurred a small cost of £9.35—or £18.70 if a woman needs two types of hormones. The product was available on a short-term basis, meaning the fee was only paid every month or three months.

However, after a long campaign led by celebrities such as Penny Lancaster and Davina McCall, the government backed a change of policy that lowered the price of the HRT prescription. Instead of multiple fees every year, there is now one annual prescription fee for the whole year at the same price.

Reportedly, Davina McCall was 'so happy' after MPs pledge to cut hormone replacement drugs by £200 a year, and many women saw this as a huge step forward for affordable healthcare for women.

It is unclear whether this same cheaper price will be available for people who buy HRT over the counter, or whether this new scheme will mean that people looking for HRT medication will be forced to pay a higher price.

Laura is a news writer for woman&home who primarily covers entertainment and celebrity news. Laura dabbles in lifestyle, royal, beauty, and fashion news, and loves to cover anything and everything to do with television and film. She is also passionate about feminism and equality and loves writing about gender issues and feminist literature.


Laura loves drinking and eating and can often be found trying to get reservations at London's trendiest restaurants. When she's not wining and dining, Laura can also be found travelling, baking, and hiking with her dog.