Javid: New tsar will tackle HRT drug shortages
Health secretary Sajid Javid has announced he will appoint a HRT ‘tsar’ in a bid to address ongoing shortages of the medicines in many parts of the UK.
Mr Javid said over the weekend that the newly created role will be modelled on that of Kate Bingham, who chaired the Covid vaccine taskforce.
The announcement comes in the wake of severe shortages of some products, such as Oestrogel. The issue has been attributed to supply chain difficulties as well as a ‘postcode lottery’ that some claim makes it harder to access HRT in some local authorities than others.
Conservative MP for Romsey and Southampton North Caroline Nokes warned parliament last week that pharmacies in her constituency have “completely run out” of HRT.
This has left women “without access to the oestrogen gel that enables us to sleep and to work competently,” said Ms Nokes.
Mr Javid told the Mail on Sunday: “I know just how much women rely on HRT and that some have been struggling to get certain medicines. I’m determined to do all I can to make sure that supplies are meeting hugely rising demand and there is equitable access.
“I will be urgently convening a meeting with suppliers to look at ways we can work together to improve supply in the short and long term.”
Labour MP Carolyn Harris, who has led a parliamentary campaign for more equitable access to HRT drugs, said that rather than appointing a tsar the health secretary should tackle the issue himself.
Ms Harris told the BBC: “It doesn't really need a tsar, if I'm honest. He could do this, he could decide to loosen the regulations on the formularies and make this product available across the country. It could happen very, very quickly.”
She also attacked the Government’s slow progress on its commitment to reduce HRT prescription costs by introducing longer prescribing cycles.
Royal Pharmaceutical Society president Claire Anderson said that while the RPS looked forward to working with “this new champion for HRT,” the appointment should be “part of a wider Government strategy to ensure patient access to medicines”.
Ms Anderson said: “Pharmacists spend many hours dealing with medicines shortages when we’d rather be talking to patients about their care.
“One solution would be to enable pharmacists to make minor changes to a prescription when something is out of stock. This is faster for patients and more efficient for the NHS.”