UK pharmacists offer alternatives to out-of-stock HRT products | Menopause

Pharmacists will be allowed to offer alternative hormone replacement therapy products if the original prescription is out of stock, under new rules aimed at tackling the current shortage.

The relaxation of normal prescription rules, announced by the government’s HRT supply task force, comes amid shortages of HRT products that have forced some women to travel across the country to access the drugs.

It follows calls, highlighted by the Guardian, by pharmacists to be allowed to dispense alternative versions of drugs without having to contact the prescriber – normally a GP – for permission each time.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘We are working to ensure that HRT is available to everyone who needs it and I am delighted to see providers continue to increase supply of some products, which testifies to the collaborative approach adopted. .”

“Meetings with suppliers are ongoing and we are taking decisive action to manage HRT supply issues and reduce delays – this includes issuing additional PHCs so women can access the medicines they need.”

Under the Serious Shortage Protocols (SSP) announced by Javid, pharmacists will be able to offer patients an alternative product to relieve their symptoms if their regular HRT is out of stock.

In late April, the government issued three SSPs to limit the distribution of Oestrogel, Ovestin and Premique Low Dose to three months’ supply to help relieve pressure in the system.

The two additional new SSPs are for Lenzetto transdermal spray and Sandrena gel, which will also be put on a three-month supply. Depending on the rules, all of these can generally be substituted for transdermal patches.

Professor Claire Anderson, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, welcomed the news, saying the short-term measure would help women access hard-to-get HRT drug supplies.

“Advice on which HRT product to switch to another has been developed by experts and women can be sure they will receive what is right for them,” she said. “Women should speak to their pharmacist if they have any concerns about their HRT medications.”

However, she added that the bureaucracy involved in completing the PHC process for each patient is “quite heavy” and said it would still be essential to resolve the underlying shortage of HRT as soon as possible.

“Ultimately, we would like to see a change in the law that makes the whole process easier and faster for pharmacists and patients,” she added.

Dr Edward Morris, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, welcomed the decision: “It really makes sense. Pharmacists generally know their medications. They often make these changes in other areas where laws permit. They should be allowed to do this for HRT and it will save women a lot of hassle.

There have been acute shortages of certain HRT products, which are used by around 1 million women in the UK to treat menopausal symptoms. The number of HRT products prescriptions in England has more than doubled in the last five years, contributing to the depletion of stocks, while manufacturers have also reported supply problems.

Thousands of postmenopausal women have struggled to access medication, leading some to buy medication online or even share medication with friends.

In the new announcement, the government said there had recently been new shipments of the popular products Oestrogel, Ovestin and Premique Low Dose. Premique now has good availability, he said, as makers of Oestrogel and Ovestin work to increase supply in the UK.

HRT Supply Task Force Leader Madelaine McTernan said: “I am very encouraged by the constructive engagement across the industry and the enthusiasm with which suppliers and pharmacists are considering working with us. to meet this challenge.

“It is essential to focus both on measures that ensure that we can use stocks in the most efficient way while guaranteeing the increase in supply.

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