HRT tsar 'will buy overseas supplies to tackle Britain's shortage'

HRT tsar 'will buy overseas supplies to tackle Britain's shortage'

HRT tsar ‘will buy overseas supplies of medication to tackle Britain’s shortage’ as manufacturers prepare to meet health officials this week

  • Manufacturers will meet health officials, including new HRT tsar Madelaine McTernan, to see which products they can source from overseas
  •  She discussed the idea with Health Secretary Sajid Javid on Thursday
  •  Shortages have affected thousands of women up and down the UK
  • A meeting with the Department of Health on Monday will discuss sourcing issues

Fresh supplies of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) could soon be shipped into Britain from other countries to ease shortages affecting thousands of women.

This week, manufacturers will meet health officials, including new HRT tsar Madelaine McTernan, to see which products they can source from overseas, after she discussed the idea with Health Secretary Sajid Javid on Thursday.

The Mail on Sunday has found that countries in Europe and North America are not facing the shortages being seen here – so they may well have stocks to spare.

Among those meeting Ms McTernan is drugs firm Theramex, which makes various types of HRT. 

Manager Tina Backhouse, who also attended last Thursday’s meeting, said: ‘We talked about bringing in supplies from other countries and that’s certainly something Theramex is happy to do.

‘We are meeting with the Department of Health on Monday about this, and I think other manufacturers are doing the same.’

Although Theramex has a ‘good stock’ of its medicines, such as Bijuva and FemSeven, Ms Backhouse said it was looking at obtaining more from Poland.

The ‘HRT tsar’ Madelaine McTernan wants to source HRT from abroad to cope with Britain’s shortages (pictured) Director General of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, Madelaine McTernan, giving evidence to the Science and Technology Committee on UK Science, Research and Technology Capability and Influence in Global Disease Outbreaks

Health Secretary Sajid Javid  held a meeting with Ms Mcternan on Thursday and will meet with the Department of Health on Monday to discuss solutions to HRT shortages 

Experts say that women tend to be more distrustful of HRT on the Continent due to controversial studies in the early 2000s linking it to a higher risk of cancer. More recent analyses shows the risks are much lower than was feared.

Anne Gompel, a professor of gynaecology in France, said that before a controversial 2002 study up to 40 per cent of menopausal women took HRT, but now it is just 11 per cent, adding: ‘French women are afraid of the side effects.’

In Spain, HRT can be bought over the counter, but uptake is still low because doctors are slow to recommend it. Italian gynaecologist Anna Paola Cavalieri said such attitudes were similar in her country.

In the US a 2021 study found only four per cent of menopausal woman took HRT, down from an estimated 25 per cent in 2000. 

Alessandra Henderson of Elektra Health, a US menopause education website, said the UK was ‘an incredibly forward-leaning and progressive market when it comes to the menopause’.

French firm Besins Healthcare said packaging issues and red tape would make it hard to divert stocks of its product Oestrogel to the UK. 

But Ms Backhouse said Mr Javid had promised to ensure the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency did everything it could to help. 

She added: ‘There was very much at attitude of, “Whatever you need to make things happen quickly, we will all work with you to make that happen”.’

One sticking point may be price. The NHS often pays less for drugs than other national health systems because its huge size gives it buying power. 

But this gives firms little incentive to shift supplies here. 

However, Mr Javid told Thursday’s meeting: ‘Money is no object.’

Campaigners appealed to Ministers last night to act immediately. 

Katie Taylor, of the menopause group Latte Lounge, said: ‘There’s no change on the ground. I’m hearing from women cutting their patches in half, or only using half the recommended amount of gel.’

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