Why is there a shortage of HRT medicines in the UK?
What are HRT medicines?
Much has been reported about the shortage of HRT medicines in recent years. So, what are HRT and why is this shortage significant? HRT are medicines that help treat the symptoms of menopause . HRT is an abbreviation for Hormone Replacement Therapy. During menopause there is a decrease in hormone levels, HRT medications increase these levels so that the symptoms of menopause are reduced.
What are the symptoms of menopause?
These can vary person to person but the most common symptoms are irregular periods, vaginal dryness, hot flushes, mood changes, and sleep problems. Some women find menopause so debilitating that they find it difficult to work and in extreme cases can lead to severe mental health issues. Due to the varying and difficult nature of the symptoms, menopause can often result in strained relationships between the sufferer and their friends and family.
So, what is driving the HRT shortage?
There are multiple reasons for why there is a shortage of HRT medications.
1. Increased demand in HRT medication.
Prescriptions for HRT medicines have increased significantly over the last few years. Despite the treatments being available for decades, much more awareness around the condition and how it can be treated has resulted in many more patients approaching their doctor for treatment. The industry has had difficulty keeping pace with this rapid uptake of HRT. medication
2. Supply chain issues.
Pharmaceutical manufacturers work in a global marketplace and supply chain issues can cause significant disruption to HRT availability. This was initially exacerbated by the Covid 19 pandemic. Multiple reasons, from factories having to reduce production, to difficulties in sourcing the active ingredient resulted in medicine shortages across the globe. Manufacturers are now playing catch up and are trying to boost production to match supply.
What medicines are being affected?
Every medicine in the HRT is being affected by availability issues. The below is a list of medications that have had issues with supply over the last 24 months.
- Evorel Patches
- Estradot Patches
- Vagifem vaginal tablets
- Estraderm MX patches
- Femseven patches
- Elleste Duet
- Elleste Solo
- Ovestin Cream
- Premarin Tablets
- Premique Low Dose
What can you do if your HRT medicine is out of stock?
Your first port of call should be to contact your physician or GP to see if there is an alternative medicine you can take. Many HRT medicines have an identical active ingredient and can be used interchangeably with little disruption to your treatment. For example, Evorel Patches, Estradot Patches and Estraderm MX patches all contain estradiol as an active ingredient. This isn’t restricted to patches, Oestrogel, Sandrena and Lenzetto are all topical forms of HRT that your physician may recommend using interchangeably if they are well tolerated and treat the symptoms.
What can you do if you want your particular brand of HRT?
Due to the nature of HRT, many patients find that switching brands does not help their symptoms. Some patients are used to a certain brand of HRT and do not want to risk disrupting their stable regime. In this case it gets a little more tricky. Most HRT medicines are available intermittently and you will need to contact multiple pharmacies to see if you can source the medication. At Pharmacy Planet we have seen many customers order simply because the item is not available at other pharmacies.
Author: Boo Dhaliwal. The author is one of the clinical pharmacists working for Pharmacy Planet. Pharmacy Planet specializes in obtaining medicines that are difficult to source.