Published by BBC NEWS - 29th April 2022

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A new hormone replacement therapy (HRT) tsar has been appointed to help deal with UK supply issues.

Madelaine McTernan has been part of the taskforce involved in the nationwide Covid vaccine rollout.

There has been a shortage of some HRT products used by about a million women in the UK to treat menopause symptoms.

The Department for Health and Social Care says Ms McTernan will use her knowledge from supplying vaccines to help address the shortage.

Women unable to obtain the medication have experienced symptoms including migraines, severe backpain and hot flushes.

The DHSC says demand for HRT has risen by 38% in the past seven years, as access has been extended, but most of the 70 products available in the UK remain in good supply.

Ms McTernan and her new team will work with:

  • suppliers
  • the NHS Business Service Authority, to secure access to real-time dispensing data
  • bodies such as the Royal College of GPs, to help pharmacists and prescribers respond to demand

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “I understand how much women rely on HRT, which is why we will leave no stone unturned to help make sure women can get the HRT they need.

“That is why I have taken decisive action to appoint Madelaine McTernan to head of the HRT Taskforce, who will use her excellent skills and expertise to build on the success of the Vaccine Taskforce to bolster supply of vital medicines to women across the country.”

One woman who began being prescribed HRT two years ago, Yasmin Darling, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme her treatment has only been in stock four times during that period.

“It means my migraines have increased and it affects my ability to sleep. That in turn has a knock-on effect on my ability to manage in general,” she said.

Pharmacist Reena Barai told the BBC managing drug shortages such as the current issues with HRT gel had become “a factor of day-to-day life for pharmacists”.

She said they would usually speak to the patient and try to arrange for an alternative to be prescribed.

“But by the time we get that prescription for an alternative, that alternative is no longer available as well so it’s a bit of a vicious cycle for women at the moment,” she said.

“Somebody needs to get a grip on the situation and co-ordinate the response.”

Ms Barai suggested pharmacists could be given the ability to make minor changes to a prescription when medication is out of stock or rules over sharing medicines with other pharmacists could be relaxed to ease supply issues.

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