Action will be taken to make supplies of HRT more resilient as Head of the HRT Taskforce Madelaine McTernan presents her key recommendations to support future management of the supply chain.
The recommendations will inform the work of the Department of Health and Social Care and the UK-wide menopause taskforce as Ms McTernan has returned to working full time as the Director General of the Vaccine Taskforce as preparation for the autumn booster campaign ramps up.
Improving access to HRT forms part of the government’s wider commitment to tackle the gender health gap, including support for menopausal women.
The Women’s Health Strategy published earlier this year, includes the menopause as a key area.
Access to HRT has improved following decisive actions to increase supply and manage demand including issuing serious shortage protocols (SSPs) on HRT products to limit dispensing to 3 months’ supply and allow specified alternative products to be supplied if necessary.
Following positive engagement across the supply chain, suppliers have also moved to secure additional stock and expedite deliveries of HRT products experiencing supply issues. Suppliers are building future capacity to support continued growth in demand.
These combined actions have resulted in improvement in supply of products including Oestrogel gel. The number of packs of Oestrogel delivered to the UK in July was double the monthly average for the first quarter this year, demonstrating a very substantial increase.
Core recommendations from the HRT taskforce include:
- continued dialogue with industry both via continuing the successful model of regular industry roundtables as well as individual engagement.
- continued use of SSPs when appropriate to manage shortages as steps are taken by suppliers to increase production.
- continued assessment whether NHS formularies may be impacting access to HRT.
Taking steps to action these recommendations, 12 of the 13 SSPs in place for HRT have been extended to help provide ongoing stability as HRT products that have experienced supply issues increase stock levels. The department has also established quarterly industry roundtables with key suppliers to ensure continued dialogue and help industry to plan for the future.
Further recommendations to help ensure continued HRT supply to meet rising demand are:
- improved access to data on prescriptions to more easily see where there are shortfalls between HRT packs prescribed and HRT packs supplied by manufacturers.
- taking lessons from the HRT supply chain work to inform broader medicine supply work.
The government has also taken action to reduce costs of HRT. The creation of a prepayment certificate will mean women can access HRT on a month-by-month basis if needed, easing pressure on supply, paying a one-off charge equivalent to 2 single prescription charges (currently £18.70) for all their HRT prescriptions for a year.
This system will be implemented by April 2023.