Leading doctors call for action to address HRT and contraceptive shortages in UK

Experts in the UK have called for government action to resolve the shortages of hormone replacement therapy and now contraceptives.

Close up of hands holding contraceptive pills

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), British Menopause Society (BMS) and Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) have written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock. Their letter calls for action to address supply constraints for hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which has been deficient for a year, and now also contraceptives.

According to the release, ongoing manufacturing and supply issues for HRT has caused distress for clinicians, patients and pharmacists over the past year.

New information has uncovered a similar situation for contraceptives, leading the organisations to say they are “concerned this situation may lead to a rise in unplanned pregnancies and abortions, whilst inadvertently affecting the most vulnerable in our society.”

Dr Edward Morris, President of the RCOG, said: “We understand the HRT supply situation should begin to improve from February 2020 as the range of products which supply 70 percent of the HRT patch market will be re-introduced to the UK market. However a number of HRT medications and contraceptives remain unavailable, some until the end of this year and some with no timeline as to when they will be back on the market.

“While we are grateful to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) for working closely with suppliers to re-introduce some of these products to the market, it remains unclear why there is a shortage in the first place or when the normal supply of the products might resume. The lack of transparency around why these shortages have occurred is extremely frustrating.”

A working group with industry, regulatory agencies and the organisations was suggested by Morris, to investigate the root of why shortages in both HRT and contraceptives have occurred.

Haitham Hamoda, Chair of the BMS, said: “We are continuing to provide advice to prescribers on alternative products available and we are keeping our website updated on what treatments are available based on information from the manufacturers.

Hamoda continued that it is “very frustrating” that the reason for these shortages is still unknown, and especially why the problems seems to be unique to the UK.

Dr Asha Kasliwal, President of the FSRH, said: “For some contraceptive methods, a truly equivalent alternative just does not exist. This is the case of Sayana Press, a self-injectable contraceptive. Women who use Sayana Press now have to see a healthcare professional to access a non-self-injectable alternative, which is undoubtedly an extra burden for them, increasing demand in busy GP practices and sexual and reproductive healthcare clinics. At the moment, the resupply date for Sayana Press is unknown.”