Top GP warns of women’s health risk due to HRT shortage

The UK’s top GP has urged the shortage of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to be addressed quickly, warning that steps some women may take to access the drug could lead to “serious side effects”.

Supply shortages of the drug, which is used to treat menopausal symptoms, have reportedly driven some women to travel hundreds of miles in search of it or to share other people’s drugs.

In comments first reported by The Guardian, Professor Martin Marshall, president of the Royal College of GPs, said the issue was causing “distress” to many women.

“It’s really important that this is resolved as soon as possible.”

He also said the college was “learning that the supply problem was specific to England”.

It comes after the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) asked Health Secretary Sajid Javid to allow pharmacists to dispense substitute versions of prescription drugs.

Claire Anderson, president of RPS, told the Guardian that current laws in England state that community pharmacists must supply the exact product and quantity of prescription drugs.

If the type of HRT product is not available, a substitute cannot be dispensed without consulting the GP who prescribed the medicine.

Pharmacists in England are currently not allowed to change prescriptions (Andy Buchanan/PA)

“Allowing pharmacists to do this will save time for patients, pharmacists and physicians, while reducing anxiety for women waiting for medication.”

Mr Javid had previously announced his intention to appoint an HRT czar.

While the RPS welcomed the decision, Ms Anderson said in a later statement that the government needed to ‘go further and end unfair prescription charges for patients in England’.

She added: “With continued concerns from patient groups about the supply of medicines for people with other conditions, this appointment must be part of a broader government strategy to ensure patient access to medicines. .

The RPS recommendations come after Labor MP and co-chair of the UK Menopause Task Force, Carolyn Harris, said the Health Secretary should tackle the acute shortage of HRT himself rather than appoint a tsar.

“The problem with menopause is that for too long women have not been listened to, women have been ignored, they have been prescribed and diagnosed with other conditions and menopause has not even been considered,” said- she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“For a postmenopausal woman, this HRT is as important as insulin for a diabetic.”

Mr Javid told the Mail on Sunday he was “committed” to ensuring supplies met the high demand and would use lessons learned during the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Hormone therapy helps combat symptoms of menopause, including anxiety, joint pain, trouble sleeping, and hot flashes.

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