Doctors raise concerns over nationwide HRT and contraceptive shortages
Author: Mark Gould
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) is calling for an investigation into manufacturing and supply issues which have resulted in ongoing shortages of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and some contraceptives.
The College says the shortages are causing distress for clinicians, patients and pharmacists.
As well as this affecting the physical and mental wellbeing of women and girls, it is concerned that contraceptive shortages may lead to a rise in unplanned pregnancies and abortions, whilst inadvertently affecting the most vulnerable in our society.
RCOG president Dr Edward Morris, said: “Thousands of women and girls have been adversely affected by this ongoing situation and they deserve better. We are calling on the DHSC [Department for Health and Social Care] to set up a working group with industry, regulatory agencies and our organisations 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.”
The RCOG, the British Menopause Society and the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) - have written to the secretary of state for health and social care, Matt Hancock, calling for a working group to be set up to address these ongoing supply constraints.
FSRH president Dr Asha Kasliwal, said shortages may lead to a rise in unplanned pregnancies as women are sent away with prescriptions for unavailable products and end up lost in a system that is frustrating to navigate.
“This is causing utter chaos for patients, clinicians and pharmacists. For some contraceptive methods, a truly equivalent alternative just does not exist. This is the case of Sayana Press, 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.”
Dr Morris said it was understoodd that 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 (DHSC) 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.”