HRTs are used to replace oestrogen that the body stops making during menopause, but supply chain issues caused by Covid, Brexit and the war in Ukraine has led to some being unavailable or in short supply.
Between 2020 and 2021, the number of prescriptions increased by about 20%, to more than 23,000 – representing some 2,000 patients locally.
Prescribing has been limited to 28 days’ supply in a bid to alleviate the shortage.
Health & Social Care chief pharmacist Bev Hall said it was understood that the main HRT product in short supply was a topical oestrogen gel, which is widely used.
‘However supplies of this product do come in sporadically, and there are many alternative products,’ she said.
‘When a product is helping menopausal symptoms and quality of life, being told that it is not available can be very distressing. Islanders in this position are advised to speak to their consultant, GP or community pharmacist to discuss alternatives.’
Former deputy Sarah Hansmann-Rouxel recently had to switch medication.
‘You try out lots of different things and find what works for you and your body and the amount of oestrogen with it. There is a plethora of different ways to do it and when you find something that works for you it has a positive effect on your mental health,’ she said.
Pharmacy stock is an issue worldwide, but local pharmacies have been focusing on ‘crossing off’ unwanted prescription items to make them available for another patient. More than 100,000 items were crossed off forms in the Bailiwick in 2021, saving a six-figure sum.
But Ms Hansmann-Rouxel said the States need to do more to ensure menopausal women feel secure.
‘When you have a HRT that works for you, you realise the symptoms you had, you don’t recognise it’s happening at the time. When it doesn’t work, the harmful effect it has on your psyche is not ideal, as well as the added hassle of trying to find it in a pharmacy.
‘We should have a menopause policy brought in by the States – there is going to be a ripple effect, and it seems no lessons have been learned from 2019. I don’t think the States take it seriously enough.’
She said menopause medication has a significant impact on the economy, as it allowed women to carry on living, working and functioning effectively.
A similar shortage was seen in 2019 when Ms Hansmann-Rouxel was using patches.
‘It was a complete farce. I was phoning all of the pharmacies and it became a bit like a black market. The next month everywhere was out of stock and I had to get different prescription. You’re paying each time to go to the doctor each time – I had just found a patch that worked for me, and then had to use a different patch that didn’t work as well,’ she said.
What are HRTs?
Hormone replacement therapy drugs are used to replace hormones that are at a lower level in the lead up to menopause.
They can help relieve most symptoms, including hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, vaginal dryness and reduced sex drive.
In 2020 there were 19,685 HRT prescriptions, at a cost of £118,208. In 2021 there were 23,448, at a cost of £151,374.