UK drug shortages sees HRT limited to three month supply

UK drug shortages sees HRT limited to three month supply

UK drug shortages sees HRT limited to three month supply Source: Pexels

Drug shortages in the UK has resulted in the government having to limit hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for woman to a three month supply, as the country struggles to make the product available to all those who need it.

A Serious Shortage Protocols (SSPs) issued by Health Secretary Sajid Javid on Friday April 29th means that pharmacies will only be able to give out limited doses of Oestrogel, Ovestin cream and Premique Low Dose. The hope is that by restricting the dispensing of these products it will even out supply and ensure that no one goes short of the drugs.

It is understood that doctors have been providing prescriptions for longer than three months and that has caused the shortage, with Javid saying: “I want to reassure women I have listened to their concerns and will not hesitate to take decisive action to ensure they can access the HRT they need.

“We will leave no stone unturned in our national mission to boost supply of HRT – and this next step will ensure women across the UK will be able to reliably access this vital medication and maintain this lifeline for millions who need it.”

Widely used in the UK, HRT helps to combat menopausal symptoms in older women including anxiety, joint pain, disturbed sleep and hot flushes.

The health department said the SSPs will expire on 29 July, with pharmacists expected to “use their professional judgement” in deciding how to apply them. Their use has according to the NHS doubled over the last five years with more than 538,000 prescriptions issued in December. By comparison in January 2017 only 238,000 were issued according to figures provided by OpenPrescribing.

The SSP will be in force until the end of July by which time drug companies believe they will be in a position to provide the required supply, Besins Healthcare UK, which makes the gel, saying that from June women will be able to get longer-term prescriptions and more people can start HRT as they plan to increase supplies.

On Thursday Javid announced the appointment of Madelaine McTernan, Director-General of the COVID Vaccine Taskforce, to lead a new HRT taskforce, which the government said “will apply lessons it has learned from rolling out the coronavirus vaccine”.

Ms McTernan said: “This is a step in the right direction of tackling the supply issues women are facing when it comes to accessing HRT and ensuring ongoing, reliable supply.”

The limiting of HRT supplies to three months comes as the UK sees drug shortages in a number of areas driven partly by Brexit and partly world supply chain issues.

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Written by

Peter McLaren-Kennedy

Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at