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When a prescribed drug is out of stock, patients cannot be given an alternative without their GP being consulted. But pharmacy leaders want the rules relaxed so chemists can offer suitable substitutes. In a joint statement, the British Menopause Society, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Royal College of GPs and the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) backed their call.

Dr Asha Kasliwal, FSRH president, diclofenac sod 75 mg side effects said some women were being sent away with unfilled prescriptions and “end up lost in a system that is frustrating to navigate”.

She added: “We support authorising pharmacists to support women to substitute out-of-stock products where there are protocols on safe equivalents agreed centrally.”

The statement added that this was not a perfect solution as women prescribed similar drugs can experience differences in absorption.

But it said reports of women travelling cross-country to source medication or on the black market were “incredibly worrying”. The number receiving HRT prescriptions doubled in five years in England.

The Government’s new HRT Supply Taskforce aims to counter the shortages. It met Health Secretary Sajid Javid and manufacturers last week to start finding solutions.

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