The supply of HRT products will be “in a better position” by next month, a minister has said as new measures to tackle widespread shortages were announced. Women’s Health Minister Maria Caulfield said the government was working closely with manufacturers to address persistent issues, which have seen thousands of postmenopausal women struggle to get their hands on essential medicines.
Pharmacists now have more freedom to offer women alternative hormone replacement therapy products to relieve their symptoms if their regular HRT is out of stock.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ms Caulfield said: “Manufacturers are telling us that by June they should be in a better position in terms of supply. The main reason we are somehow in this position is that we’re almost a victim of our own success, is the sheer demand for HRT products.
“We’ve seen a 38% increase, which is absolutely welcome, and that’s because women feel confident asking for HRT now when they’re at the GP and GPs feel more confident to prescribe it, so we want it to continue.”
On Saturday, the government announced that its HRT supply task force had agreed to implement further severe shortage protocols (SSPs) to temporarily allow pharmacists greater freedom to choose alternative HRT products. SSPs had already been introduced in April to limit the distribution of Oestrogel, Ovestin and Premique Low Dose to three months’ supply.
The two additional new SSPs are for Lenzetto transdermal spray and Sandrena gel, which will also be put on a three-month supply. According to the rules, all of these can usually be replaced with transdermal patches. The government said that although Premique now has good availability, manufacturers are still trying to increase the supply of Oestrogel and Ovestin.
Professor Claire Anderson, President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said of the latest announcement: “We welcome the news that more SSPs have been put in place for hormone replacement therapy products. This short term will help women access the supply of HRT drugs that are difficult to access.
“This is a very fluid situation, with some products expected to return to normal availability shortly. However, the bureaucracy involved in completing the PHC process for each individual patient is quite onerous for pharmacists and we hope to see the shortage of HRT products resolved as soon as possible under the leadership of the new HRT Tsar.
“Ultimately, we would like to see a change in the law that makes the whole process easier and faster for pharmacists and patients. The guidance on which HRT product to switch to was written by experts and women can be sure that they will receive what suits them.
“Women should speak to their pharmacist if they have any concerns about their HRT medications.”
Madelaine McTernan, Head of the HRT Supply Taskforce, said: “I am very encouraged by the constructive engagement across the industry and the enthusiasm with which suppliers and pharmacists look forward to working with us to meet this challenge. Focusing on both measures that ensure we can use inventory most efficiently while ensuring increased supply is essential. »