The BMA has responded to new Government measures1 to tackle Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) shortages in the UK.
Dr Farah Jameel, BMA GP committee executive team member, said:
“Thousands of women rely on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) in the UK, and we know that many patients have been needlessly suffering as a result of recent manufacturing and supply issues.
“Drug supply issues are common, and while clinicians can prescribe alternative medication, amending a patient’s prescription takes time and this can significantly add to our already heavy workload – particularly if the issue is ongoing.
“More importantly, prescribing alternative interim medication might not always help to fully relieve a patient’s symptoms, further delaying their treatment and causing avoidable, unnecessary distress to the patient.
“HRT supply issues have been going on far too long, so it’s encouraging that the Government is finally taking steps to resolve it by limiting HRT exports from the UK.
“The menopause can be a very difficult time for many women, so it’s essential that they have access to the medication they need, when they need it.”
As part of the same announcement, the Government said it would be introducing the first Serious Shortage Protocol (SSP) for the antidepressant Fluoxetine, which allows chemists to offer different dosages of the drug if the prescribed one is not available.
Responding to this, Dr Jameel added:
“It’s vital that patients are protected from medicine shortages as much as possible, particularly as we head into the winter months – when pressure on NHS services is most intense - and uncertainty grows around the fallout of a potential no-deal Brexit.
“While this protocol is a sensible measure in theory, patients must have the reassurance that changing the strength or form of their much-needed medication – in this case commonly used for mental health-related conditions – won’t have any adverse effects. Furthermore, we have to be sure that it won’t add to GP workload or cause unnecessary confusion among practice teams.
“The crux of the issue, however, is ensuring that problems concerning the manufacturing and supply of medicines are promptly addressed, so that serious shortage protocols are only used as an absolute last resort and patients can continue to access the recommended forms of medication regardless of where they live.”
Notes to Editors
The BMA is a trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.
1. Contact the Department of Health and Social Care for full details of the announcement.