Pharmacists will have greater freedoms to choose alternative HRT products if the original prescription is out of stock.
The government’s HRT Supply Taskforce, which was set up to tackle widespread shortages, has agreed to further Serious Shortage Protocols (SSPs) to give pharmacists more control – something they have been demanding.
It will mean women can be offered another product at the pharmacy to relieve their symptoms if their normal HRT is out of stock.
We are working to ensure HRT is available for everyone who needs it
Health Secretary Sajid Javid
At the end of April, the government issued three SSPs to restrict dispensing for Oestrogel, Ovestin and Premique Low Dose to three months’ supply to help relieve pressure in the system.
The two new further SSPs are for Lenzetto transdermal spray and Sandrena gel, which will also be put on a three-month supply.
Under the rules, all these items can generally be substituted for transdermal patches.
Thousands of menopausal women have struggled to get their hands on key medication, which has led to online swaps and medicines being offered on the black market.
In the new announcement, the government said there had been recent further deliveries of the popular products Oestrogel, Ovestin and Premique Low Dose. Premique now has good availability, it said, while the manufacturers of Oestrogel and Ovestin are working to increase UK supply.
Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid said: “We are working to ensure HRT is available for everyone who needs it and I am pleased to see suppliers continuing to increase the supply of some products which is a testament to the collaborative approach being taken.
This is a very fluid situation, with some products due to return to normal availability shortly
Professor Claire Anderson
“Meetings with suppliers are ongoing and we’re taking decisive action to manage HRT supply issues and reduce any delays – this includes issuing further SSPs so that women are able to access the medication they need.”
Pharmacists have also been granted powers to share medicines where appropriate.
Professor Claire Anderson, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: “We welcome the news that more SSPs have been put in place for hormone replacement therapy products.
“This short-term measure will help women access supplies of HRT medicines, which are difficult to get hold of.
“This is a very fluid situation, with some products due to return to normal availability shortly.
“However, the bureaucracy involved in completing the SSP process for each individual patient is quite burdensome for pharmacists and we hope to see the shortage of HRT products resolved as soon as possible under the leadership of the new HRT tsar.
Focusing both on measures that ensure we can use stocks most efficiently whilst also ensuring supply is increased is critical
“Ultimately we’d like to see a change in the law which makes the whole process easier and quicker for both pharmacists and patients.
“The advice on which HRT product to substitute with another has been drawn up by experts and women can be confident they will receive what’s appropriate for them.
“Women should talk to their pharmacist if they have any concerns about their HRT medicines.”
Head of the HRT Supply Taskforce, Madelaine McTernan, said: “I am very encouraged by the constructive engagement across the sector and enthusiasm with which suppliers and pharmacists are looking to work with us to meet this challenge.
“Focusing both on measures that ensure we can use stocks most efficiently whilst also ensuring supply is increased is critical.”