Health Secretary Tackled Over HRT and Contraceptive Shortages

Nicky Broyd

February 07, 2020

Professional groups have written to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock over shortages of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and some contraceptives.

Supplies of HRT have been limited for more than a year now but some contraceptive prescriptions are now going unfilled.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), the British Menopause Society (BMS), and the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) are warning of the risk of unwanted pregnancies and abortions, as well as the physical and mental impact on women and girls.

Why the Shortage?

They want Mr Hancock to set up a working group to address supply issues. RCOG President, Dr Edward Morris, said in a statement: "We understand the HRT supply situation should begin to improve from February 2020 as the range of products which supply 70% of the HRT patch market will be re-introduced to the UK market. However, a number of HRT medications and contraceptives remain unavailable, some until the end of this year, and some with no timeline as to when they will be back on the market.

"While we are grateful to the Department of Health and Social Care for working closely with suppliers to re-introduce some of these products to the market, it remains unclear why there is a shortage in the first place or when the normal supply of the products might resume. The lack of transparency around why these shortages have occurred is extremely frustrating."

He said the working group needed to "get to the root of why shortages in both HRT and contraceptives have occurred. This working group must work together to ensure that this situation is prevented from happening again".

FSRH President Dr Asha Kasliwal, added: "For some contraceptive methods, a truly equivalent alternative just does not exist. This is the case of Sayana Press (Pfizer), a self-injectable contraceptive. Women who use Sayana Press now have to see a healthcare professional to access a non-self-injectable alternative, which is undoubtedly an extra burden for them, increasing demand in busy GP practices and sexual and reproductive healthcare clinics. At the moment, the resupply date for Sayana Press is unknown.

"These shortages disproportionately affect the most vulnerable in our society, for example a woman struggling to access clinics, or a transgender patient, who is already under psychological distress, and for whom changing contraceptive preparations could cause further difficulties."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "We understand how distressing medicine shortages are and we want to reassure patients we are doing everything we can to help them access treatments as soon as possible.

"We are working closely with suppliers and partners to resolve this soon as possible and ensure relevant information is shared across the NHS on a regular basis."

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