By Neil Trainis
The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has said it will urgently look into concerns that an online clinic is offering to send pharmacies in the UK prescriptions for hormone medication that can be accessed by the parents of transgender children.
GenderGP told Independent Community Pharmacist that its doctors, who are all based outside the UK, can send private prescriptions to any online or bricks-and-mortar pharmacy of a patient’s choice, which it said was in line with government guidance for prescriptions issued in the European Economic Area and Switzerland.
However, concerns have been raised that the services offered by GenderGP, which is owned by Harland International Ltd, a company registered in Hong Kong, circumvent the checks and safeguards required by NHS clinics before approving treatment to help children transition.
While children going through NHS services undergo a multi-step assessment including a GP referral, therapy sessions and meeting with an endocrinology team, it appears GenderGP's only mandatory requirement are information gathering sessions conducted by video link.
Concerns surrounding the services offered by GenderGP, which was established by Helen Webberley who was convicted in 2018 of running an unlicensed transgender clinic, have been aired on the BBC and published in The Times in recent days.
Insisting the prescriptions it provides are for “gender-affirming medication,” GenderGP told ICP: “This can be in the form of GnRH agonists to prevent the development or progression of secondary sex characteristics, estradiol to feminise a trans-feminine person or testosterone to masculinise a trans-masculine person. All treatments are prescribed in accordance with The Endocrine Society Guidelines for the Treatment of the Gender Incongruent Person.”
GenderGP, which stresses its services are also for adults, said it was “happy to work with all pharmacies” registered with the GPhC.
The regulator, however, urged pharmacies to “manage the extra risks” that may arise when working with a prescriber based outside the UK and ensure “the prescriber is working within national prescribing guidelines for the UK.”
“People are at risk of serious harm if they receive medicines or treatment that are not clinically appropriate for them,” said GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin.
“(The) investigation by the BBC and The Times raises serious concerns. We are looking into the issues raised as a matter of urgency and will take any actions necessary to safeguard patients and the public. Pharmacy owners and pharmacy professionals have a responsibility to safeguard children and vulnerable people.
“We expect pharmacy owners to make sure they do not work with online providers who are trying to circumvent the regulatory oversight put in place within the UK to ensure patient safety throughout the healthcare system.
“Pharmacy owners should also make sure that the online prescribing service, or a prescriber, that they choose to work with is aware that some categories of medicines are not suitable to be supplied online unless further safeguards have been put in place to make sure that they are clinically appropriate.
“This includes medicines that require ongoing monitoring and management.”