Around one million women in the UK use HRT for symptoms of menopause © PeopleImages/Getty Images
Around one million women in the UK use HRT for symptoms of menopause © PeopleImages/Getty Images

HRT drug shortage prompts govt action

12 August 2019

Manufacturing delays, rather than Brexit, are being blamed by the government for a shortage of  hormone replacement therapy (HRT) treatments.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has confirmed it is working with medical suppliers to tackle the shortage of commonly prescribed HRT products which help to manage symptoms of menopause.

Around a million women in the UK use HRT for symptoms of menopause, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

In a statement today, a DHSC spokesperson said the department was “aware of ongoing supply issues” which were due to “manufacturing delays.” There was no reference to Brexit.

Mylan, which manufactures HRT drug Elleste; and Theramex, the makers of HRT patch FemSeven Sequi, are among the suppliers affected.

Government officials first became aware of a potential supply problem with Elleste in late December 2018, when Mylan, the sole UK supplier, advised that they were experiencing ongoing manufacturing issues due to regulatory action at their contract manufacturing site.

The DHSC has been liaising with Mylan on a weekly basis in order to monitor the supply situation and expedite a resupply date.

Stocks of FemSeven Sequi have already been exhausted and it may be some months before they are replenished.

“We are working closely with all suppliers to maintain overall flow of medicines to patients. Supplies of alternative HRT products are available and any patient affected should discuss alternatives with their doctor,” the DHSC spokesperson said.

It remains unclear why there is a shortage of the treatments in the first place or when the normal supply of the products might resume, according to Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s PM last Saturday, she commented: “The last six months in particular have been spectacularly difficult for HRT and in the last few months, it seems to be coming to a head. We’ve heard there have been problems with obtaining some of the ingredients in the adhesive that is in patches. We’ve heard ‘supply chain problems’.”

News of the shortages comes just weeks after Martin Sawer, the executive director of the Healthcare Distribution Association, warned parliament’s Brexit select committee a no-deal situation could create medicine shortages within weeks, with critical and short shelf-life medicines the most vulnerable to disruption.

During an evidence session before the committee in June, he said: “We would expect medicine shortages and a lot of price rises for the NHS pretty quickly and some shortages in some constituencies for sure.”

Meanwhile research released today by finance provider Premium Credit revealed one in five Britons have already begun stockpiling ahead of leaving the EU on 31 October 2019.

Amid concerns over disruptions to supply that could arise in a no-deal scenario, 50% of people have stockpiled medicines, while 74% have built up supplies of food and 46% have stockpiled drinks.

The public is estimated to have spent £4bn so far on stockpiling efforts, the research stated.

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