The crisis in the supply of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) must be addressed quickly as ‘so many women’ are in distress and some are at risk of serious side effects from using drugs prescribed to others, the senior GP has warned from the United Kingdom.
There have been acute shortages of certain HRT products, which are used by around 1 million women in the UK to treat menopausal symptoms. Some women turn to the black market or hang out in parking lots with other women to buy, barter or share drugs.
Professor Martin Marshall, president of the Royal College of GPs, told the Guardian action was urgently needed to resolve the crisis. “The college is concerned about supply issues related to the provision of HRT, and we understand the distress this is causing so many women,” he said. “It is really important that this is resolved as soon as possible.
“We hear that the supply problem is specific to England, as there has been a huge increase in demand for estrogen, particularly transdermal, which we use. There is not the same problem with the supply of some of the other oral preparations which are suitable for many women in the UK and provide good symptom relief.
Thousands of GPs across the country are made aware of the products available to enable them to help women who may need to be prescribed a substitute, Marshall said.
However, he also raised concerns about women who share HRT products with others who struggle to get medication due to supply issues. “While we appreciate the seriousness of the current situation and the frustrations women are going through, we urge them not to share HRT medication as it could lead to serious side effects.”
The Guardian revealed on Monday that supply shortages were so severe that some women were forced to travel hundreds of miles in search of HRT products.
Health experts are increasingly concerned about the growing impact of this problem on women’s physical and mental health.
“The impact of the HRT shortage on so many women cannot and should not be underestimated,” said hormone expert Dr Martin Kinsella. “I have heard of women buying HRT on the black market and in doing so putting their own safety at risk, and some whose mental health as well as physical health have suffered greatly because of the shortage.”
Dee Murray, CEO and Founder of Menopause Experts Group, said: “The shortage of HRT is causing stress and potential harm to women, with some pushed to take matters into their own hands and seek supplies online. This could have a devastating impact on their health, as HRT should only be prescribed by qualified medical professionals who understand the patient’s story.
Sajid Javid has been urged to change the law to allow pharmacists to change prescriptions in the event of drug shortages. Claire Anderson, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, told the Guardian that community pharmacists should be able to dispense alternative versions of prescription drugs without having to contact the prescriber – usually a GP – each time. Currently the law in England says they only have to provide the exact prescription.
Javid, the health secretary, has said he is ‘committed’ to resolving the crisis and intends to use the lessons learned during the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine, as well as appointing an EU czar. supply of HRT.