Continuing shortages of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and contraceptive drugs are “unacceptable” and causing “utter chaos” for pharmacists, clinicians and patients, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG) said in a statement today (February 7).
The RCOG, along with the British Menopause Society (BMS) and the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, has written to health secretary Matt Hancock urging him to set up a working group to combat the shortages.
In August last year, C+D reported on the growing number of HRT shortages. At the time, the BMS said it had been “reassured that these are temporary shortages”.
Lack of transparency
Despite the work done by the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) to combat shortages by working with suppliers, it “remains unclear why there is a shortage in the first place or when the normal supply of the products might resume”, RCOG president Dr Edward Morris said in the statement.
“The lack of transparency around why these shortages have occurred is extremely frustrating,” he added.
In September last year, 95% of the 402 respondents to a C+D survey said they were finding it harder to source medicines than 12 months previously.
Potential reasons experts have given for why shortages have become such a widespread problem – not just when it comes to HRT and contraceptive medicines – include globalisation, stockpiling and the UK’s free market.
DH: “We are working with suppliers”
The DH has said it is “doing everything” it can to help patients access treatments as soon as possible.
“We are working closely with suppliers and partners to resolve this as soon as possible and ensure relevant information is shared across the NHS on a regular basis”, it added.
In October last year the DH introduced a parallel export ban on certain medicines, including some HRT drugs, to prevent them from being exported from the UK.
RPS: “Huge amount of pressure” on pharmacies
The shortages are causing a “huge amount of pressure on pharmacists and pharmacy staff”, Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) president Sandra Gidley has said.
Pharmacy teams are spending a “greater amount of time dealing with medicine shortages when they would rather be talking to patients about their health”, she added.
The RPS understands that HRT shortages are “soon to be resolved” as ingredients are becoming available to suppliers, but said that shortages across a range of medicines “remain an issue for pharmacists and patients”.