HRT CRISIS AS PATCHES RUN OUT ON HIGH ST
Shortage forces desperate women to seek menopause treatment from abroad
WOMEN have been forced into buying HRT medication from abroad as it is now almost impossible to get in Britain.
Shortages have been going on for months but reached ‘crisis point’ this week as most evorel patches – the UK market leader – disappeared from the shelves. Many alternatives were already out of stock and the two main pharmaceutical wholesalers have completely run out of all commonly-prescribed HrT patches, according to an audit seen by the Daily Mail.
Manufacturers are rationing what little stock they have with the support of the Department of Health, which has been slammed for its ‘disastrous’ handling of the crisis. Some women have been buying boxes for their friends from pharmacies while on holiday in Spain. One patient has even been air-freighting HrT from South africa.
around two-thirds of HrT treatments have been hit by shortages. They include evorel and elleste, the two most popular brands, which are prescribed to upwards of 100,000
women a year – more than half of those on the treatment. HRT is administered as patches, pills or gels and provides the oestrogen that the body stops producing during menopause. Several HRT tablets are also out of stock.
Dr Anne Henderson, an NHS consultant gynaecologist who runs a menopause - clinic, said: ‘It is now impossible e to get patches – it is virtually impossible e to run a clinic. I have been doing HRT for r 30 years and I have never come across s such an utter mess. For the first time e ever I physically cannot prescribe for r some patients.’
More than half of women on HRT are e prescribed patches, which are applied d once or twice a week below the waist.
Dr Henderson said: ‘Women are getting g desperate, they are left with no other r option than to look overseas. I know of one woman who popped into a pharmacy y in Spain where you could buy Everol ol over-the- counter. She walked off with h about six boxes. I have a patient whose mother is in South Africa, and is airfreighting six boxes over.
‘People who are on holiday are now rushing to the pharmacies and coming back with HRT for their friends, although it won’t last long because the manufacturing issues are Europe-wide.’
Elizabeth Carr-Ellis, a menopause campaigner who has been forced to switch HRT brands due to the crisis, said: ‘I have had people messaging me offering
‘My patients are paying the price’
to go to Spain for me and pick up HRT.’ Women have shared stories on social media of buying HRT from pharmacists over-the-counter in Spain. They are also resorting to buying medication from websites – which experts warn could put their health in danger as drugs bought over the internet are often imitations.
The crisis started late last year when supply-chain issues that began in China forced some manufacturers to cease production. This led to raised demand for other brands and had a domino effect which ‘wiped out’ their stock. Shortages are expected to continue until next year.
Thousands of women have been forced to switch brands in recent weeks, causing crippling menopause symptoms including night sweats and depression.
In recent days Evorel HRT patches, which are made by Belgian firm Janssen and have a market share of 40 per cent, have gone out of stock. An audit seen by the Mail last night revealed all Evorel patches are unavailable in the two largest pharmaceutical wholesalers – AAH, which supplies Lloyds, and Alliance, which is owned by the same firm as Boots. No alternative patches are available. FemSeven Sequi and Conti patches, made by Theramex, have been out of stock for months and will not be available until 2020. Estradot patches, an alternative HRT product produced by Swiss giant Novartis, are not subject to any shortages. But Novartis does not produce enough Estradot to meet the increased demand, meaning any patches it supplies fly off the shelves immediately. It has had to ration orders or else its stock would be wiped out in days. Doctors say health bosses should have foreseen the crisis. Dr Henderson said: ‘Me and my patients are paying the price for disastrous handling by Janssen and the Department of Health.’
The Department of Health said: ‘We have not restricted supplies of HRT, but support Novartis’s decision to manage demand.’ Janssen said: ‘Availability of the Evorel range continues to be acutely impacted by the lack of availability of alternative HRT products.’
Professor Andrew Goddard, President of the Royal College of Physicians, said: ‘The situation is... unlikely to have the resilience to survive a major stress like No Deal Brexit.’
The Daily Mail, August 12