The UK’s acute shortage of hormone replacement therapy products for menopausal women has prompted the health secretary to call a meeting with industry representatives and the government’s new HRT supply tsar to discuss the crisis.
Manufacturers of HRT products and pharmacy representatives met Sajid Javid and the recently appointed HRT supply tsar, Madeleine McTernan, on Thursday to discuss the supply shortages. The meeting lasted about an hour, and Javid was expected to release a statement on the discussions later in the day.
Javid tweeted after the meeting:
The National Pharmacy Association said it was looking forward to “working closely with government to help find a long-term solution to ensure good supply is available for our patients”.
Its director of corporate affairs, Gareth Jones, said: “It’s good that something is being done to grip the matter. The overarching issue is one of supply failing to keep up with the rapidly rising demand in this country.
“As experts in medicines, pharmacists should be given greater flexibility to take decisions at the point of care to manage supplies. This includes the authority to amend prescriptions or share stock among pharmacies … to do so could help maintain supplies.”
Soaring demand for HRT products among British women going through menopause has led to months of supply shortages and stories of women struggling to sleep or work effectively after being unable to obtain their prescriptions.
Some describe the surge in demand as the “Davina effect” after a documentary fronted by the TV presenter – Davina McCall: Sex, Myths and the Menopause – that was broadcast on Channel 4 in May last year prompted thousands to seek prescriptions.
Javid has rationed supply, imposing “serious shortage protocols” on 29 April to limit the dispensing of Oestrogel, Ovestin cream and Premique Low Dose to three months’ supply per person to “even out” the distribution.
Millions of women go through the menopause each year, and many experience a range of symptoms which can be severe, including anxiety, low mood, hot flushes and difficulties sleeping.
The government knew about the supply shortages as far back as October, according to Tina Backhouse, the UK manager for women’s health at Theramex, a pharmaceuticals firm. She told the Daily Telegraph she had alerted the Department of Health at the time but ministers were focused on dealing with the Covid pandemic.
Prescriptions for HRT have more than doubled in England over the past five years, according to NHS data.