Why are we still failing Britain’s women? Scandal of worsening HRT shortage

Women who take HRT

Women who take HRT are being turned away from pharmacies because of a worsening drugs shortage (Image: Getty)

Last night, Theramex – the London-based pharmaceutical giant which recently bought the Evorel brand from Janssen – admitted that some of its products may not be available until February. This means some women face an agonising three-month wait while others are flying to EU countries to ensure they have enough supplies. Women’s health campaigners yesterday demanded an end to the scandal.

Representatives from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the British Menopause Society told the Daily Express they had been bombarded with calls from women unable to get treatments because of manufacturing and supply problems.

According to Government figures, around 360,000 prescriptions are issued for HRT drugs each month.

Last night, campaigners said it was “outrageous” that women were struggling to get their HRT drugs.

Online forums Mumsnet and Gransnet have launched a campaign to get a better deal for women going through the menopause.

HRT

HRT replaces the hormones women can no longer produce because of the menopause (Image: Getty)

In a bid to avert the crisis, Health Secretary Matt Hancock last month announced new export restrictions to stop some medicine wholesalers “parallel exporting”.

This is when companies buy drugs meant for UK patients and sell them on for a higher price elsewhere. 

But four in 10 women are still reporting difficulties in getting their prescriptions. 

A Mumsnet and Gransnet survey of more than 1,500 people found that 43 percent had been affected by the current shortages. 

Furthermore, 16 percent of those who sought help for menopause symptoms said their GPs wrongly prescribed anti-depressants.

Dawn Grassby

Dawn Grassby (Image: Daily Express)

Another 24 percent said they had to complain to their GP for over a year before they were given the appropriate medication or help.

Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts said: “It’s astonishing that we still have no adequate explanation for the HRT shortage, months after the problem emerged, and little evidence of concerted action to get supplies back into pharmacies.

“It’s difficult enough for women to get good healthcare for menopause-related symptoms. It’s outrageous that so many face difficulties in filing their prescriptions.”

Haitham Hamoda, a consultant gynaecologist and chairman of the British Menopause Society, also spoke of his frustration.

Mary Gannon

Mary Gannon (Image: Daily Express)

He told the Daily Express: “There hasn’t been a lot of information provided to us as advisory bodies from the manufacturers.

“We’ve also had various discussions with the Department of Health and there has been no clear information about the root cause.

“It is partly blamed on increase in demand and partly blamed on more people changing to a patch preparation, as opposed to tablets.

“Most of the companies have been saying this is a global problem but when you look at what’s available, it doesn’t seem to have affected any other country as much as it has in the UK.

“We’ve pushed to find out if its the ingredients, if its manufacturing regulations, if it’s because of Brexit and the answer to all of these has been ‘No’.”

Lynette Daniels

Lynette Daniels (Image: Daily Express)

A spokesman for Theramex said it was “very aware” of the supply issue and was “dedicated to resolving this issue as quickly as possible”.

He added: “We have been working with our suppliers to shorten the manufacturing timelines, accelerate supply and resupply the UK earlier than originally planned.

“We appreciate the urgency of the situation and have added an additional manufacturer to fasttrack the process.

“We estimate, with the new timelines in place, the Evorel Mono, Conti and Sequi ranges will be back in stock in the UK from February 2020 onwards.

“Theramex intends to build product inventory to increase security of supply and avoid future risk of stock-outs.”

A spokesman for Mylan, which produces Elleste, said its “third-party manufacturing partner experienced an interruption in production” of the drug earlier this year.

He added: “Following a review and to ensure the stable supply of Elleste in the future, we are transferring the production of Elleste to a Mylan-owned facility.

“The transfer is in progress and we anticipate production to resume by the latter second half of 2020.”

The Department of Health and Social Care said it was unable to comment last night due to pre-election purdah.

• If you have been affected by the HRT drug shortage and would like to share your story please contact the Daily Express news desk on 020 8612 7216.

Or you can email [email protected].

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