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GPs faced with ongoing HRT shortages

GPs are still experiencing shortages of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) products, leading to added workload.

Hurdles when trying to source the treatment are being noticed across the UK, from Scotland to Essex. 

The Government introduced a ban on the parallel export of HRT products last October, but problems with manufacturing, regulation and accessing the raw pharmaceutical ingredient have remained. 

As a result, some HRT products are temporarily unavailable.

A Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesperson told Pulse: ‘We understand how distressing the HRT shortage is and are doing everything we can to help those impacted.

‘Although some HRT products are currently unavailable, supplies of alternatives continue to be available and the situation has been improving steadily since the end of February.’

Dr Shahzadi Harper, a GP in Oxfordshire with a special interest in women’s health, highlighted how the effects of the pandemic have brought another aspect for both GPs and patients to contend with.

She said: ‘The HRT shortages have created increased work; the rewriting of prescriptions; anxious patients and additional calls and emails.

‘Lockdown and coronavirus have been anxiety-provoking enough with even those patients who were settled on their HRT taking a step back, whether due to stress, financial reasons, health issues or insonmia. The shortages have added another layer of complexity and anxiety. Women are worried that they will not be able to obtain their medication, fall back into the abyss of menopausal symptoms and be unable to cope.

‘Many GPs are already stumped when it comes to prescribing HRT and now having to change to a similar one - a lateral move to change prescriptions can be challenging for them. Shortages are changing on an almost weekly basis.

‘GPs are facing problems with varied issues and are themselves feeling stressed during Covid-19, so it’s almost unfair to add this additional burden on them. HRT is essential in maintaining physical and mental wellbeing.’

GPs in London have also noticed that availability is fluctuating.

Dr Sean Morris, who practices in the capital, explained: ‘Our experience locally has not necessarily been of worsening HRT stock levels, but more of variations in what’s available. Just as some HRT options return, others start experiencing stock issues - it’s all quite confusing.’

Pulse’s analysis last year recounted patients being on their fourth switch of HRT, while the DHSC previously admitted that the problems were expected to continue well into this year. 

And earlier in the pandemic NHS England asked GPs not to over-prescribe or over-order, to avoid exacerbating pressures on the supply chain.

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