Greater awareness of the menopause and a spike in demand for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has led to a serious shortage protocol being issued for three HRT products.
This means that Oestrogel pump-pack 750mcg/actuation gel, Ovestin 1mg cream, and Premique low dose 0.3mg/1.5mg modified release tablets will be limited to three months' supply.
Supplies of other HRT products, including alternatives to those affected, currently remain available.
Women who have a prescription for more than three months but are only able to access three months’ supply will not have to pay an additional prescription charge. This means women will not incur any additional costs.
No stone unturned in our national mission to boost supply of HRT
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said imposing a three month limit will mean more women are able to access the medication they want.
He added: "I want to reassure women I have listened to their concerns and will not hesitate to take decisive action to ensure they can access the HRT they need.
"We will leave no stone unturned in our national mission to boost supply of HRT – and this next step will ensure women across the UK will be able to reliably access this vital medication and maintain this lifeline for millions who need it."
The SSPs, which are set to expire on Friday 29 July 2022, allow community pharmacists to supply the three specified HRT products according to the protocol rather than the written prescription, without needing to seek authorisation from the prescriber. This will even out distribution of in demand for products such as Oestrogels which have recently experienced issues due to rising demand. Pharmacists are expected to use their professional judgement when deciding to apply the SSP and patients must be consulted.
New head of HRT taskforce to address shortages
The news follows the announcement of Madeline McTernan as head of the newly formed HRT taskforce to address issues in the supply chain.
Bringing key learnings from the success of the Vaccine Taskforce, the Government said Madeline McTernan will prioritise HRT over the coming weeks, working closely with suppliers to understand constraints and develop plans for what can be done to ensure both short and long term supply meet rising demand.
Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “We welcome the appointment of Madelaine McTernan CB as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) tsar.
“We are concerned the ongoing shortages are incredibly distressing for those affected. Society has made real progress in the past couple of years in tackling the taboos and stigma that surround menopause. It’s unacceptable that women are facing barriers to accessing HRT and we are pleased to see the tsar’s role focused on ensuring the UK has a long term plan for the sustainable supple of HRT.
“We strongly encourage women who have been affected by these shortages to speak to a healthcare professional, as there are alternatives are available. There is no one size fits all when it comes to the menopause, and if an exact match is not available, healthcare professionals will be able to advise other treatment options.”