First-ever over-the-counter HRT goes on sale: Boots sells pack of 24 vaginal tablets for £30

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Over-the-counter hormone replacement therapy (HTS) is on sale today in Britain for the very first time.

Postmenopausal women can buy Gina’s 10mg tablets from Boots, in what has been hailed as a historic moment for women’s health.

Other chains will also start stocking the pills later this month.

The drug, which costs around £1.25 per tablet, only treats some side effects of menopause.

The pills are placed directly into the vagina, where a low dose of estrogen flows out.

This helps relieve vaginal dryness, pain, itching and burning, factors that can cripple the sex life of women going through “change”.

Gina 10 microgram vaginal tablets will be available over-the-counter for postmenopausal women over 50 at Boots stores and on its website from September 8.

What is Gina?

Gina is a low dose estrogen HRT for women with menopausal vaginal discomfort.

What does it do?

It can relieve dryness, pain, itching, burning, and uncomfortable intercourse in women over 50 who have not had their period for at least a year.

The drug slowly releases estradiol, the type of estrogen mainly produced by the ovaries, directly into the vaginal tissue.

This replaces the estrogen that women’s bodies produce in this area before menopause.

How do you take it?

During the initial treatment, women insert a tablet daily into their vagina for fifteen days.

They then switch to a maintenance course of one tablet twice a week.

Does it have any side effects?

The most commonly reported side effects are abdominal pain, vaginal discharge, vaginal discomfort, and vaginal bleeding.

Cases of vaginal bleeding in particular should be seen by a GP to rule out anything more serious.

Serious side effects resulting from taking the drug are considered rare.

Is there an increased risk of breast cancer from using Gina?

No. Some forms of HRT that release female sex hormones into the bloodstream, such as skin patches and gels, have been linked to a small increase in breast cancer risk.

As vaginal tablets only release hormones directly into the surrounding tissues, very little enters the bloodstream, so they are not considered to increase the risk of breast cancer.

Gina cannot relieve other debilitating symptoms, such as hot flashes.

All other types of HRT, including the various vaginal pills, as well as patches and gels, are still only available on prescription.

Menopause occurs when a woman stops getting her period, which means she is no longer able to get pregnant naturally.

The process – triggered by the ovaries producing less estrogen – is a natural part of aging and usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55.

HRT is a way to treat the symptoms, which eight out of 10 women suffer from. It restores female hormone levels, bringing relief to hundreds of thousands of women every year.

Gina, made by Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, releases estradiol, the type of estrogen primarily produced by the ovaries, directly into vaginal tissue.

This means that very little is absorbed into the bloodstream.

This type of HRT is considered not to increase the risk of breast cancer by the NHS.

By way of comparison, other forms, which combine estrogen and progesterone, are associated with a small increase in risk.

Only those over 50 who have not had a period for a year will be able to obtain low-dose drugs, under the supervision of pharmacists.

The tablets come in a pre-loaded applicator that delivers a low dose of estrogen directly to the vaginal wall which is gradually released into the vaginal tissue, improving flexibility and elasticity and replenishing moisture.

Users initially place one tablet per day in their vagina for a fortnight, after which they switch to a maintenance dose of two tablets per week.

It is available from Boots as a pack of 24 vaginal tablets for £29.99.

After an initial rollout to 590 stores from September 8, the drug will be stocked in all 2,247 Boots stores by the end of October.

Before buying the treatment, patients will have a consultation with a pharmacist, who will ask them a few questions to make sure it is right for them. They do not need to make an appointment for this.

If they buy from the Boots site, they will have to go through an online consultation.

Gina will still be available to patients with an NHS prescription, for the price of the prescription or free for those who don’t pay for prescriptions.

Although the over-the-counter cost is higher than a prescription, some may choose to buy direct from Boots if they are having trouble getting a GP appointment.

The most commonly reported side effects after taking the tablets are abdominal pain, vaginal discharge, vaginal discomfort and vaginal bleeding.

Anne Higgins, Pharmacy Manager at Boots, said: ‘As a pharmacy medicine, Gina is more accessible to patients as they no longer need a prescription from their GP.

“Today is another milestone in women’s health.”

It is hoped the move will reduce demand in GP surgeries – with patients facing long waits to get on the phone and for appointments – by allowing women to get HRT without making an appointment.

Bina Mehta, Pharmacist at Boots, said: “Menopause is a natural process and everyone’s experience is different.

“I encourage those going through any stage of menopause to come speak to their local pharmacist for personalized advice and recommendations as well as advice, if needed, on how to optimize HRT treatments.”

This follows a string of other over-the-counter drugs, including Viagra in 2018 and birth control pills last July.

Thousands of women struggled to access essential HRT medicines earlier this summer amid a nationwide shortage.

The crisis has seen women meet in car parks to get their usual HRT products by bartering with others, while some have been forced to pay extra online for black market HRT supplies.

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