'Extraordinary demand' leads to shortage of HRT products

GPs may need to switch patients' HRT after 'extraordinary demand' has led to shortages of Oestrogel, which has had knock-on effects on the availability of other oestrogen-only HRT products.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Oestrogel manufacturer Besins Healthcare said it has experienced 'exceptionally high demand' for Oestrogel (estradiol 0.06% gel) in recent months, resulting in shortages of the product. Safety stocks have been depleted in order to meet the increased demand, it added, meaning all new weekly deliveries into the UK are being used immediately to fulfil current orders.

Besins said some retail pharmacies may report the product as out of stock at their local wholesaler. The company expects this to be a short-term issue.

Prescriptions for HRT have more than doubled in England over the past five years, according to NHS data. Figures from OpenPrescribing show that nearly 538,000 prescriptions for HRT treatment were issued in December 2021, compared with 238,000 in January 2017.

Alternative preparations

The British Menopause Society (BMS) has advised clinicians to consider alternative HRT preparations such as Sandrena (estradiol 500 microgram or 1mg gel) or Lenzetto (estradiol 1.53mg spray) if patients are experiencing difficulty obtaining Oestrogel.

Prescribers can also find suitable alternatives using the HRT comparison table on GPonline's sister site MIMS. The table helps healthcare professionals compare hormone doses, formulations and costs for all HRT products marketed in the UK.

However, Orion Pharma has advised that the Sandrena 500 microgram x 28 pack and 1mg x 28 pack are currently unavailable, but expected to be back in stock mid to late April. There had also been problems with the 1mg x 91 pack of Sandera, but the company has confirmed this is now available.

Pharmaceutical company Gedeon Richter has said the three-container pack of Lenzetto remains in full supply, with good levels of stock, but after a period of 'unusually high demand' it is also experiencing a temporary shortage in supply with the single-container pack. The company expects this to be resolved at some point this month.

A number of transdermal estradiol patches are also available.

'Extraordinary demand'

Besin said is was acutely aware of the concerns that women will have if they are unable to fulfil their Oestrogel prescription.

In a statement it said: 'We regret this ongoing situation regarding insufficient supplies of Oestrogel into the UK. We continue to receive deliveries of Oestrogel, nevertheless we acknowledge that the current supply is insufficient to meet the extraordinary demand we are experiencing.

'We are doing everything we can to manage, increase and expedite supplies to pharmacies across the country and are expecting significant volumes of Oestrogel during the forthcoming weeks. Further supplies will continue to arrive and will be released to wholesalers upon arrival for distribution across the country.'

A version of this story first appeared on our sister site MIMS.

Useful resources on MIMS
GPs can use the MIMS HRT comparison table to find suitable alternative treatments.

Follow the latest stock updates of HRT, and find out about other drug shortages, with the live MIMS drug shortages tracker.

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