Which HRT brands are currently affected by shortages?
C+D spoke to key manufacturers of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) products to find out which brands are currently experiencing supply issues.
Shortages of HRT products – which are used to relieve menopausal symptoms – have long plagued pharmacy teams, who battled through a tide of demand for medicines throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even pre-pandemic, pharmacy staff reported shortages across all 30 brands of HRT medicines named in a C+D survey carried out in March 2020.
But HRT shortages continue to be a concern for pharmacy teams. Earlier this week (April 5), health minister Edward Argar confirmed in response to a written parliamentary question that the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) is “aware of supply issues affecting a very limited number of HRT products”.
The DH will “continue to work with all suppliers” to help “resolve these issues and maintain overall supply to patients”, Mr Argar added.
C+D has asked key HRT manufacturers for an update on stock availability and, where products are affected by supply issues, to explain the reasons behind these.
Besins: Current supply “insufficient”
A spokesperson from Besins Healthcare said that the company’s current UK supply of Oestrogel is “insufficient to meet the extraordinary demand [it] is experiencing”.
The company continues to “receive deliveries of Oestrogel” and is “doing everything [it] can to manage, increase and expedite supplies to pharmacies across the country”, it said.
Besins expects to secure “significant volumes” of the product “during the forthcoming weeks”, the company told C+D.
These will be “released to wholesalers upon arrival for distribution across the country”.
“Besins are acutely aware of the impact this situation is having on patients and understands that they may be worried about fulfilling their Oestrogel prescription,” it said.
“We are committed to communicating any significant changes of supply with patients, healthcare professionals and other stakeholders,” the spokesperson added.
Orion: “Unprecedented demand over recent months”
Pharmaceutical company Orion said it was experiencing “supply issues” for Sandrena 0.5mg Gel x 28 sachet pack, Sandrena 1mg Gel x 28 sachet pack and Indivina 2mg/5mg tablets “due to unprecedented demand over recent months”.
“We anticipate that all products will be back in stock later this month,” a spokesperson from the company told C+D.
Orion is “doing everything [it] can to manage and increase supplies for the UK”, the spokesperson added, while its European parent company continues to send “regular supplies of all HRT products”.
The rest of Orion’s HRT products, including the Sandrena 1mg Gel x 91 sachet pack, remain in stock, the spokesperson confirmed.
“Low stocks” for Kyowa Kirin products
Though Tostran “is not currently out of stock”, a spokesperson for its manufacturer Kyowa Kirin told C+D the product was in low stock in “some areas during March 2022”.
“This was driven by constraints in resource availability”, they said, adding that “stock should return to a normal level in the near future”.
No supply issues for Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Merck, and Novartis
Estradot – supplied by Novartis UK – “is not experiencing any [..] supply issues at present”, a spokesperson from the manufacturer confirmed.
Novartis has “been working very closely with the DH to identify solutions to address the increased demand as shown in overall market data”, they added.
Novo Nordisk’s products are also not affected by supply issues at present, a spokesperson confirmed to C+D.
Neither of Pfizer’s HRT medicines are impacted by “supply constraints”, a spokesperson for Pfizer told C+D.
A spokesperson for Merck Sharp and Dohme said “there are currently no expected supply issues for Livial”.
Why has demand increased?
Demand for HRT products – such as Besins’ Oestrogel Pump-Pack 750 micrograms/actuation Gel – “increased significantly” in May 2021, a spokesperson for the company told C+D.
This was partly driven by recent “increased media coverage on menopause”, they added, which “continued throughout the year and intensified again in November” last year after the government announced it would implement longer prescription cycles for HRT products.
An increase in social media posts by women sharing their experiences of menopause and “women demanding better and more equal treatment of menopause”, is another factor Besins believes is driving demand.
There has been “increased attention to menopause as a factor for women in the workplace”, the company told C+D.
The government has recently focused its attention of women’s health, the spokesperson added, “as evidenced by its call for evidence in June last year and the setting up of the menopause taskforce”.