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Firm behind popular HRT Oestrogel says it is on track to meet growing demand

Women can expect supplies of oestrogel, which is used to treat menopause symptoms, to meet demand in June, the main firm behind its supply said (Alamy/PA)
Women can expect supplies of oestrogel, which is used to treat menopause symptoms, to meet demand in June, the main firm behind its supply said (Alamy/PA)

The firm behind popular HRT treatment Oestrogel said it is on track to meet growing demand.

The number of women seeking the rub-on treatment, which works by enabling the hormone oestrogen to be absorbed into the bloodstream without the need for pills, has rocketed.

Besins Healthcare UK, which makes the gel, said it is planning an increase in supplies – so women can get longer-term prescriptions and more people can start hormone replacement therapy – from June.

A spokeswoman said the company continues “to deliver Oestrogel to the UK wholesaler network on a regular basis”.

She said: “Currently they are supplying double the quantity supplied at this time last year.

“The target is to meet demand, including the increase in the average quantity per prescription and growing demand, in June 2022.

“Besins Healthcare UK work with wholesalers on an ongoing basis to ensure an equitable distribution across the UK distribution network.”

HRT – or hormone replacement therapy – can help alleviate severe menopause symptoms including hot flushes, night sweats, low mood, anxiety and difficulty sleeping.

Prescriptions for HRT have more than doubled in England over the past five years, according to NHS data.

Figures from OpenPrescribing suggest nearly 538,000 prescriptions for HRT treatment were issued in December, compared with 238,000 in January 2017.

The British Menopause Society has advised medics to consider alternative HRT preparations for women who cannot get their usual stock of Oestrogel, including the gel Sandrena or the spray Lenzetto.

Other forms of HRT have also suffered a shortage as demand outstrips supply.

Increasing awareness of HRT and the role of celebrities in encouraging women not to suffer in silence has helped more women seek out treatment.

On Thursday evening, Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced he had appointed Madelaine McTernan, director general of the Covid Vaccine Taskforce, to lead a new HRT taskforce, which the Government said will “will apply lessons it has learned from rolling out the coronavirus vaccine”.

Science and Technology Commitee
Madelaine McTernan (House of Commons)

Ms McTernan said: “We will apply the key learnings from the successful way the Vaccine Taskforce have procured life-saving vaccines during the pandemic to help ensure women have reliable ongoing access to these critical medicines.”

The Government said the new taskforce will work closely with suppliers to understand what is causing the issues.

Mr 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.”

Cabinet Meeting
Health Secretary Sajid Javid (James Manning/PA)

A National Pharmacy Association board member said on Friday that pharmacists “undeservedly get the brunt of people’s frustration” due to the shortage in HRT.

Reena Barai, a pharmacist in Sutton, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think the Government needs to look at the supply. It needs to look at the demand. And, as pharmacists, we’re actually asking for the ability to make minor changes to a prescription to a suitable alternative when something is out of stock.

“That would be a game changer for pharmacists and for our patients as well.

“And, also, often we’re not able to share medicines with each other, with other pharmacies, and if we were able to do that as well we’d really save lots of precious GP time that’s wasted in issuing alternative prescriptions.”

Asked if the process could be speeded up, she said: “Absolutely. It would be really useful for us to be able to do that and support our patients, because we undeservedly get the brunt of people’s frustration in these difficult circumstances.”