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Pharmacies to limit supply of menopause medication amid shortages

Figures suggest the number of HRT prescriptions in the UK has more doubled in the last five years (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)
Figures suggest the number of HRT prescriptions in the UK has more doubled in the last five years (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)

Pharmacists will be asked to limit the supply of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) medication to combat shortages, the Government has announced.

Ministers on Friday issued a Serious Shortage Protocol (SSP) across the country for 110mg capsules of Utrogestan.

The policy will allow pharmacists to dispense a maximum of two months’ supply per prescription.

The Government claimed the SSP would allow more women to access the medication they need.

Utrogestan, which is used to treat menopausal symptoms, is expected to be in intermittent supply until late 2023 as deliveries by manufacturer Besins have struggled to meet rising demand.

Around two million women use HRT to help alleviate symptoms associated with the menopause including hot flushes, anxiety and brain fog. Taking HRT can also reduce the risk of hormone-related health problems including osteoporosis and heart disease.

A note sent to patients earlier this month from the country’s largest pharmacy, Pharmacy2U, said it was struggling to fulfil all prescriptions for Utrogestan. The medication is taking alongside estrogen.

Pharmacy2U said it could take “several weeks” to build up its supply.

“If we do receive a prescription for Utrogestan, and the delays persist and it seems unlikely that we will be able to send it to you within a reasonable time, we might need to cancel it from the prescription and ask you to visit your GP,” the note said.

Minister for the Women’s Health Strategy, Minister Maria Caulfield said: “Today’s decisive action will mean more women will be able to access this medicine, and I want to reassure women that the vast majority of HRT products are in good supply.

“The overall supply of HRT products has improved considerably over the last year and I am encouraged by how industry is responding to the growth in demand and our continued calls for action to boost supply to meet it.

“We continue working to help ensure continuity of supply – which is a key part of increasing support for menopausal and pre-menopausal women and improving their quality of life.”

Pharmacy leaders have raised concerns that patients could be coming to harm as a result of medicine supply issues.

Almost nine in 10 (87 per cent) believe patient health is being put at risk because of problems with supply, according to a survey by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) survey.

It comes amid a number of high profile shortages in recent months including certain antibiotics during the Strep A outbreak.