Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, spokesperson for the Royal College of GPs, said: “Menopausal symptoms can cause great distress for many women – and for some specific symptoms, such as hot flushes, hormone replacement therapy is the only medication that has the evidence showing substantial benefit, as this is aims to replace the hormones that the body is missing during this stage of life.
“Many women are understandably concerned about the link that has been made between HRT and increased risk of breast cancer and other conditions, such as thromboembolism. But it is important to remember that these issues are closely related to prolonged use of HRT in older women and these risks reduce substantially after treatment is stopped.
“The new NICE guidelines today are welcome as they explore a wide range of treatment options and clarify the evidence base for these – they will be of great use to healthcare professionals and our patients. We also support the move away from unnecessary blood tests to diagnose menopause for women aged over 45.
“There are very few effective alternatives to HRT. Low doses of modern antidepressants have been shown to help in some cases, but this involves prescribing these drugs off-licence, which has a number of medico-legal risks and the clarification that this should not be a first line approach to treatment is helpful to doctors.
“We would encourage all women to eat healthily and exercise regularly to maintain a healthy weight and protect their bones during the menopause and beyond. We would also suggest researching self-care methods on reputable websites, such as NHS Choices.
“Ultimately, any decision to prescribe HRT needs to come out of a discussion between GPs and individual patients about their unique circumstances, the pros and cons of treatments, and how to achieve the best possible health outcome.”
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Notes to editor
The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 50,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.