A joint statement published by four medical organisations has outlined a short-term approach to tackling HRT shortages while calling for the need for women to have reliable access to HRT in the long term.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), the British Menopause Society (BMS) and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) say guidance from the BMS on equivalent alternatives of HRT need to be utilised by healthcare professionals and pharmacists to ensure women have access to an appropriate form of HRT. This includes making sure women are made aware of possible alternatives so they can feel empowered to ask their healthcare professionals.
The statement supports authorising pharmacists to provide women with substitutions for out of stock products, where there are set protocols on safe equivalents.
While these solutions will address shortages in the short term, the organisations continue to call for a long-term approach so that women have reliable access to the form of HRT that best suits them.
Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “We are concerned the ongoing shortages are incredibly distressing for those affected. Society has made real progress in the past couple of years in tackling the taboos and stigma that surround menopause.
“It’s unacceptable that women are facing barriers to accessing HRT. We have joined with other medical organisations to work closely with the newly appointed HRT tsar and make sure this situation is addressed so that it doesn’t happen again.”
Dr Asha Kasliwal, President of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, said:
“HRT for many women is a lifeline which helps them to effectively manage their symptoms. When they are unable to access it, this can have a profound impact on their quality of life.“We understand that the causes of the current supply issues for some HRT products are complex. Alongside long-standing issues with securing sustainable supply of HRT, we are also seeing increasing demand for products.
“We are aware that women are sent away with prescriptions for unavailable products and end up lost in a system that is frustrating to navigate.
“We support authorising pharmacists to support women to substitute out-of-stock products where there are set protocols on safe equivalents agreed centrally, following the relevant guidance.”
Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “The menopause affects different women in different ways but for many their symptoms can negatively impact their quality of life, so managing this is something that GPs take very seriously.
“The College is concerned about the current supply issues around the provision of some preparations of HRT. We understand the distress this is causing to many women, and it is frustrating for GPs and pharmacists as well when we face difficulty providing patients with the treatment they need. This is why the RCGP has been calling for the root causes of the situation to be identified and resolved as a matter of urgency. In the meantime, this statement puts forward solutions which we hope will be beneficial to the women affected by these shortages."
Dr Haitham Hamoda, Chairman of the British Menopause Society, said: “Solutions need to be found so that access to all forms of HRT is reliable and sustainable in the long term. This will give women and healthcare professionals the confidence to decide which form of HRT is right for the individual based on their needs and clinical background and women should be able to continue with their preferred HRT instead of basing it on which products are most and least likely to remain in good supply in the coming months and years."
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Notes to Editor
Read the joint position statement here: https://www.rcog.org.uk/media/cl5ah5t4/hrt-supply-joint-statement-bms-fsrh-rcgp-rcog.pdf
The BMS is producing up to date alerts on alternative HRT preparations to provide guidance to clinical practitioners who may be experiencing difficulties obtaining certain HRT: https://thebms.org.uk/news/british-menopause-society-update-on-hrt-supply/
To find out more about the new HRT tsar appointment, visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/vaccine-taskforce-director-general-will-harness-lessons-from-pandemic-to-address-hrt-supply-chain-issues
About the RCOG
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is a medical charity that champions the provision of women’s healthcare in the UK and beyond. It is dedicated to encouraging the study and advancing the science and practice of obstetrics and gynaecology. It does this through postgraduate medical education and training and the publication of clinical guidelines and reports on aspects of the specialty and service provision.