Pharmacy that home-delivered puberty blockers to transgender children ‘put patients at risk’


A pharmacy has been damned by regulators for arranging home deliveries of life-changing medication for transgender children which bypassed NHS safeguards. 

Puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones were dispensed to parents of transgender children by Clear Chemist in Liverpool, using online prescriptions issued by a private overseas clinic not subject to UK regulatory requirements. 

The prescriptions were from GenderGP, founded by Helen Webberley, who was fined in 2018 for running an unlicensed transgender clinic from her home in Wales.

She was suspended following a referral by the General Medical Council and moved her clinic to Spain before it was acquired by Hong Kong-based Harland International last year.

After it emerged that parents could bypass safeguards in place to protect children, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPC) launched an investigation.

The regulator today blasted Clear Chemist’s ‘quick, discreet delivery’ system, claiming that the online pharmacy was riddled with ‘serious system-wide failures in the governance and management of risk’.

Inspectors also found a shocking ‘lack of safeguarding, which presents a risk to patient safety’. The GPC added that the pharmacy created ‘additional risks of working with prescribers based in the EEA [European Economic Area] and working outside UK regulatory oversight’.

The prescriptions were from GenderGP, founded by Helen Webberley, who was fined in 2018 for running an unlicensed transgender clinic from her home in Wales

The prescriptions were from GenderGP, founded by Helen Webberley, who was fined in 2018 for running an unlicensed transgender clinic from her home in Wales

It recommended measures to ‘rectify the failures and meet the standards, including developing and putting in place a comprehensive risk assessment for the services they provide and updating their safeguarding policy and procedures’. 

Clear Chemist, which has insisted that the service complied with guidelines, is disupting the basis on which the improvement notice was issued.

The pharmacy also accused the GPC of inaccuracies about its service. 

Clear Chemist appeared to take advantage of a loophole allowing prescriptions for certain medicines written in the EEA or Switzerland to be dispensed in the UK. 

But GPC guidelines issued last year said pharmacies must not work with online providers who try to circumvent UK regulatory oversight. 

GPC boss Duncan Rudkin said: ‘We know that people receiving medicines from Clear Chemist have been concerned about how our actions may affect them. 

‘We want to reassure everyone that we have not asked the pharmacy to stop supplying medicines to patients undergoing treatment for gender dysphoria. 

‘We have directed the pharmacy to make improvements to make sure that people receive medicines that are safe and effective for them. 

‘Our inspectors will continue to work with the superintendent pharmacist to make the improvements needed and to support continuity of care for the pharmacy’s patients.’ 

In a statement to The Times, Clear Chemist said: ‘In the very limited period of time we have had to consider the improvement notice we are increasingly concerned that it contains a number of factual inaccuracies and erroneous assumptions that have in our opinion incorrectly formed the foundation of this disputed document, the culmination of which could wrongly impact the transgender community, a community we remain proud to support.’ 

Children with suspected gender dysphoria are generally referred to the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, which has one site in London and another in Leeds. 

Puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones were dispensed to parents of transgender children by Clear Chemist in Liverpool, using online prescriptions issued by a private overseas clinic not subject to UK regulatory requirements (file photo)

Puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones were dispensed to parents of transgender children by Clear Chemist in Liverpool, using online prescriptions issued by a private overseas clinic not subject to UK regulatory requirements (file photo)

Children using these NHS services receive a detailed clinical assessment that could take ‘several months’, according to information published by the Health Service.

Those who have ‘lasting signs of gender dysphoria and who meet strict criteria may be referred to a hormone specialist’ before they start taking medication. 

Hormone blockers (gonadotrophin-releasing hormone analogues) pause the physical changes of puberty, such as breast development or facial hair.

Little is known about the long-term side effects of hormone or puberty blockers in children with gender dysphoria.

Although the GIDS advises this is a physically reversible treatment if stopped, it is not known what the psychological effects may be.

It is also not known whether hormone blockers affect the development of the teenage brain or children’s bones.   

From the age of 16, teenagers who’ve been on hormone blockers for 12 months may be given cross-sex hormones, also known as gender-affirming hormones. 

Long-term cross-sex hormone treatment may cause temporary or even permanent infertility. However, as cross-sex hormones affect people differently, they should not be considered a reliable form of contraception.

There is some uncertainty about the risks of long-term cross-sex hormone treatment.

NHS England is currently reviewing the evidence on the use of cross-sex hormones by the Gender Identity Development Service.  



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