Pharmacists are calling on Health Minister Stephen Donnelly to allow them to dispense alternatives to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to address the current shortage of the drug used to manage menopausal symptoms.
The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) said it wants to see similar changes to the law here as the UK has introduced that allows pharmacists there to provide alternative HRT products to patients.
Currently in Ireland, pharmacists cannot amend prescriptions for HRT and patients must go back to their doctor for alternatives if the HRT prescribed is not available.
Both Ireland and the UK are experiencing a shortage of HRT products and to address the problem in the UK, its HRT taskforce this weekend announced that it is relaxing the rules on prescribing there so that pharmacists can dispense alternatives to various HRT medicines without patients having to see their GP.
The UK’s Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid told the Guardian newspaper: “We are working to ensure HRT is available for everyone who needs it and I am pleased to see suppliers continuing to increase the supply of some products which is a testament to the collaborative approach being taken.
“Meetings with suppliers are ongoing and we’re taking decisive action to manage HRT supply issues and reduce any delays – this includes issuing further serious shortage protocols so that women are able to access the medication they need.”
Kathy Maher, chair of the IPU’s Pharmacy Contractors Committee, said: “There has been serious supply issues with HRT products over the last number of years, which has accelerated in recent months. This is causing significant stress and frustration to women trying to source these essential medicines.
"By allowing pharmacists to dispense alternative HRT products without the requirement to revert to a GP, or send the patient back each time, pharmacists will be able to offer patients another product to relieve their symptoms if their normal HRT is out of stock.
“We are therefore calling on the Minister for Health to follow the lead of the UK and to immediately allow pharmacists to be able to dispense substitute HRT products without a prescription and without having to resort to a GP. This measure will mean women can be offered another product at the pharmacy to relieve their symptoms, if their normal HRT is out of stock.
"This would save time for patients, pharmacists and doctors and help alleviate the huge anxiety felt by women over supply and access to essential treatments.”