Chemist sells hormones for trans children online The Times 06.10.20

The original article is here.

Parents of transgender children can bypass NHS safeguards by arranging home deliveries of life-changing medication from an online pharmacy in Britain, The Times has learnt.

Puberty blockers and sex hormones can be dispatched via a “quick, discreet delivery” once they pay for prescriptions from a private clinic abroad. This allows people to avoid some checks and safeguards that protect children who are referred for NHS treatment.

Clear Chemist in Liverpool can deliver the drugs thanks to a loophole allowing the dispensing of prescriptions from Switzerland or a European Economic Area country. The prescriptions are from GenderGP, a private company founded by Helen Webberley, who was fined in 2018 for running an unlicensed transgender clinic from her home in south Wales. She was suspended by the General Medical Council.

She moved her clinic to Spain and last year it was acquired by a Hong Kong-registered owner, Harland International. She still features on the website and is a non-medical adviser.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPC) said it would investigate. Clear Chemist said the service complied with guidelines. “We are regulated by [the GPC], who issue the following guidance: ‘. . .the prescriber is registered in their home country where the prescription is issued and can lawfully issue prescriptions online to people in the UK’. The prescriber from GenderGP fulfils these requirements.”

GenderGP requires “information gathering sessions” by video link, charged at £65, but its other counselling and support services are voluntary. Children using NHS services have a GP referral, a telephone assessment, three to six therapy sessions and two appointments with an endocrinology team before treatment is approved.
Mermaids, a transgender charity, removed a GenderGP link from its website in May last year. However, The Times has seen redacted screenshots taken this year from forums on the Mermaids site, in which parents discussed experiences with GenderGP.

One said there were “no invasive questions like we had at Tavi”, referring to the Tavistock and Portman NHS clinic in London. Another said: “My son spoke to the counsellor three days after we signed up and they are happy for him to start puberty blockers.”

The Times did not access the forums or see information identifying patients.

Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPC, said: “We are looking into the issues raised as a matter of urgency and will take any actions necessary.”
Clear Chemist, which is owned by RB Healthcare, said GenderGP patients were given the option of a paper prescription to take to a local pharmacy. It notified each UK patient’s GP, it said, adding: “Puberty blockers are a recognised, safe and effective medication.”

Harland International said: “GenderGP operates entirely within the law and follows international published guidance on the care of transgender patients of all ages. There is no published UK medical guidance.”

Belinda Bell, the chairwoman of trustees at Mermaids, said: “We have clarified on our forums that Mermaids only recommends NHS pathways.”

How it works

For £195 to join and a subscription of £30 a month, GenderGP patients are offered a consultation with a clinician in the European Economic Area or Switzerland.
Sessions for information gathering, at £65 each, are compulsory; other support is encouraged but voluntary.

For UK patients, GenderGP sends the prescription to Clear Chemist, which emails a link for them to buy the medicine.
Clear Chemist offers a “quick, discreet delivery” to a home or workplace and says that it notifies the patient’s GP. GenderGP says it also works with GPs.