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HRT prescriptions soar by over a third in just one year

The number of HRT prescriptions went up by over a third year-on-year in 2021/22, when 7.8 million items were prescribed in primary care, NHS Business Services Authority (NHS BSA) has revealed.

This represents a 35% increase on the 5.78 million hormone replacement therapy (HRT) items that were prescribed in 2020/21, according to experimental NHS BSA data released today (October 6).

The data also showed a 30.5% increase in number of patients prescribed HRT in 2021/22, up from an estimated 1.48 million in 2020/21 to an estimated 1.93 million in 2021/2022.

NHS BSA cautioned that the data is a “new ad-hoc experimental official statistic” that was released to support work by the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England, and HRT suppliers.


HRT prescriptions by ICBs


NHS Cheshire and Merseyside Integrated Care Board (ICB) was the area with the highest number of patients prescribed HRT in 2021/2022, at 97,005. These patients were prescribed a total of 385,830 HRT items.

Read more: DH’s HRT taskforce to disband as pharmacists report persistent supply issues

Meanwhile, a total of 82,939 patients were identified as being recipients of HRT prescriptions in NHS Greater Manchester ICB – with a total of 315,952 prescriptions issued to them.

NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin ICB reported the lowest number of patients prescribed HRT, at 18,788, with 71,308 items prescribed to them.

A slightly higher number of patients, 23,694, were identified as needing HRT in NHS Somerset ICB, with 97,766 items prescribed to them.

NHS Northamptonshire ICB reported that 26,792 patients had been prescribed HRT, for whom 114,923 items were prescribed over 2021/22.


Disparity between most and least deprived areas


According to the data, in 2021/2022 areas of greater deprivation had the lowest estimated number of patients who had been prescribed HRT.

Almost twice as many patients received prescribing in the least deprived areas of the country compared to the most deprived.

Between April 2021 and March 2022, a total of 247,871 patients were prescribed HRT items in the most deprived areas of the UK, according to the Indices of Multiple Deprivation.

Read more: ‘Worse than ever’: Which medicines are pharmacists struggling to stock?

In comparison, 477,441 patients were prescribed HRT in the least deprived areas.

NHS BSA estimates that a greater proportion of patients from the most deprived areas of the country who received HRT prescriptions were under the age of 60.

Some 76.6% of estimated patients in the most deprived areas were under 60, while 64.6% of estimated patients from the least deprived areas were under 60.


HRT supply issues


The Association of Independent Multiple pharmacies (AIMp) CEO Leyla Hannbeck told C+D today that AIMp has “consistently campaigned for months and continue to campaign to improve the supply of HRT as the demand has clearly shut up”.

She added: “It is concerning to see however such variations between various areas of the country and to see that women in deprived areas have less access to HRT. Care should be equal for everyone and we are hoping that this inequality gets looked into by the decision makers.” 

While demand for HRT products surged dramatically over recent months, stock levels have fluctuated.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DH) issued a slew of serious shortage protocols for HRT products in May to give pharmacy teams “different options” when faced with “significant ongoing disruption” to stock levels.

However, last month the DH announced that its taskforce established earlier this year to help ease the supply of HRT drugs is set to be disbanded, despite reports from pharmacists and menopause campaigners that some products are still difficult to come by.

Last month, Novo Nordisk’s Gina 10mcg also became the first HRT drug to be dispensed in all UK pharmacies without a prescription.


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