Hundreds of thousands of women could benefit from cheaper hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as part of a scheme to cut prescription costs.
The Department of Health said that from April 1, women prescribed HRT as part of menopause treatment will be able to access a new scheme to enable access to a year’s worth of treatment for just under £20.
Health officials estimate that the change will benefit around 400,000 women, with a prescription pre-payment certificate for HRT valid for 12 months.
Under the plan, women can use the certificate against a list of HRT prescription items.
Patches, tablets and topical preparations can all be accessed, with no limit on how many times the pre-payment certificate can be used while valid.
Minister for Women Maria Caulfield said: “Around three-quarters of women will experience menopause symptoms, with one-quarter experiencing severe symptoms, which can seriously impact their quality of life.
“Reducing the cost of HRT is a huge moment for improving women’s health in this country, and I am proud to be announcing this momentous step forward.
“In our Women’s Health Strategy, we made menopause a top priority – by making HRT more accessible, we’re delivering on our commitment to women.”
Around 15% of women aged 45-64 in England are currently prescribed HRT, according to the Department of Health.
Dame Lesley Regan, the Government’s women’s health ambassador, said: “Making HRT more affordable will have a hugely beneficial impact on the lives of so many women. This pre-payment certificate is a major step forward in prioritising the health and wellbeing of women.”
The Department of Health said that it engages with suppliers on a weekly basis and closely monitors the supply of HRT.
Women will be able to apply for the pre-payment certificate through the NHS Business Services Authority or in person at pharmacy registered to sell the certificates.
Dr Ranee Thakar, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “We know that cost can be one of the barriers that women face in accessing treatment to manage their symptoms during menopause, and the introduction of HRT pre-payment certificates is a positive step to improve access to HRT.
“This announcement is an important first step, and we hope that more will be done to address the challenges and inequalities faced in accessing menopause care and treatment.”