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Are you finding it difficult to access your usual HRT prescription via your local pharmacy?

If you have seen the news over the past 2 months you will have noticed that there is a supply crisis of medicines in the UK, with patients having increased difficulty accessing their regular prescriptions due to spikes in supply. But why is this happening?

You may have heard the term “supply chain“ used by the media and this is simply a term they use to describe a system and the sequence of manufacturing, distribution, wholesaling and retailing that delivers products to consumers.

Supply chain disruption

Following over 2 years of disruption through the pandemic we have seen the supply chain for many goods and services disrupted by lockdowns, staff absenteeism, demand drop offs, coupled with the UK’s exit from the European Union and new import rules.

Supermarket shelves have periodically become empty and this hasn’t been helped by fuel supply issues at filling stations and soaring costs of petrol and diesel.

In the background critical services such as HRT have suffered as a consequence of the disruption.

What is HRT and why is it important to women

The menopause is a normal phase in the aging process for women and it is a time of change. For some women they experience little or no symptoms of this change, whilst for others it can be a turbulent time and the symptoms can be quite unpleasant.

The menopause used to be a topic that wasn’t discussed or well understood, but thankfully society is much more open about the menopause and accepting that it is a real issue for some women and support is on hand. Now more than ever women feel more empowered to ask doctors for HRT.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is medication to replace lost hormones as part of the menopause and it is designed ease the symptoms of the menopause. HRT medicines are typically found as transdermal patches, tablets or gels that are applied to the body.

So, what’s happened to HRT medicines?

As of May 2022 we are experiencing a supply crisis with HRT medicines, for women that need support with the symptoms of the menopause, such as Evorel Patches, Evorel Conti Patches and Evorel Sequi Patches.

Not only do we have issues with supply chains, we are also seeing a surge in demand for HRT as the population in the UK ages. Over the past 5 years HRT prescription volumes have more than doubled which is putting further pressure on the supply process.

As a result, all of these factors have come together to create a supply issue that is causing issues at a local pharmacy level when it comes to fulfilling HRT prescriptions. Spikes in demand are creating localised shortages that take a few days to resolve and are not easily managed by community pharmacies. The Health Secretary has sponsored a HRT Supply Taskforce to implement serious shortage protocols (SSPs) to ease the problem, but will this be enough? This mostly consists of limiting prescription quantities and identifying products that can be swapped for others with no adverse effects.

Pharmacists now have the authority to switch medications where appropriate to smooth the demand and ease localised supply problems. Naturally some patients are reluctant to accept a different prescription over their tried and effective usual medication.

What else can you do to access HRT medicines during this crisis?

Many online services have started to provide HRT medication via their online services in response to the recent demand.

PrivateDoc is an online clinic that has long been well respected for its weight loss service and they have recently launched a HRT service to help women who are in desperate need of a HRT prescription and unable to access this via their normal route. To find out more about the HRT shortages and how PrivateDoc can help visit their website.

This piece was created in collaboration with PrivateDoc for which we received payment.

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