Manufacturers Struggle to Keep Up with Growing Demand for HRT | Menopause

It’s a position most companies would love to find themselves in: growing demand for their products.

But growing orders for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) among menopausal British women have caused some manufacturers to be unable to keep up, leading to months of supply shortages and stories of women struggling to sleep or work effectively after being unable to. get your prescriptions.

Several HRT drug providers describe it as the ‘Davina effect’: the documentary Davina McCall: Sex, Myths and Menopauseled by the TV presenter, which was first broadcast on Channel 4 in May 2021, prompting an immediate surge in demand.

However, nearly a year later, this shows no signs of abating. Demand for HRT products increased by 30% in the month after the broadcast, according to Theramex, a global pharmaceutical company focused on women’s health.

Orders continued to grow throughout the year, rising 130% during the second half of 2021, according to Tina Backhouse, Theramex UK Women’s Health National Manager.

Millions of women go through menopause each year, and many experience a range of symptoms, which can be severe, including anxiety, moodiness, hot flashes, and trouble sleeping.

“As an industry, we have had no warning of [the documentary],” said Backhouse. Theramex has subsequently increased manufacturing of its HRT products, which are made in Germany, but this is continually under review.

“Every month we are looking at it and putting it up again. I thought at worst we would have nine to 12 months of safety stock in the warehouse and that’s not the case. But we are bringing enough.”

However, the company, owned by private equity firms PAI Partners and Carlyle, said increasing production required significant investment and therefore did not immediately lead to higher profits.

“It is expensive to increase production capacity. You have to take a leap of faith,” Backhouse added. “It’s not like ordering a shipment of groceries for the next week, [the manufacturers] You have to look for raw materials.”

The shortage of HRT in previous years has been attributed to manufacturing and supply chain issues, however, the industry says the lack of availability in recent months stems from the growing number of women ordering the products.

The number of HRT prescriptions in England has doubled in the last five years to over 500,000 a month. As a result, some products have not been available for periods of time.

In early April, the British Menopause Society warned members and doctors about the continuing noticeable shortage of Oestrogel, a gel that contains the hormone estrogen and is applied to the skin.

Its manufacturer, Besins Healthcare, said it is experiencing “continuous extraordinary demand” for the gel in the UK.

The Brussels-based private company said in a statement that it regretted “the continued situation of insufficient supply of Oestrogel in the UK”.

Despite delivering nearly double the amount of the gel – which is produced in France and Belgium – to the UK between January and April compared to the same period in 2021, the company acknowledged that supplies were sometimes “insufficient”. .

“Besins is aware of the impact this situation is having on patients and understands that it is concerned about fulfilling its prescription,” the company said, advising any concerned patient to speak with their doctor or pharmacist.

Besins said it plans to further increase its production so that it can supply more products to the UK in the long term.

HRT gels or patches applied to the skin are more often prescribed, according to physician Paula Briggs, president-elect of the British Menopause Society and a consultant on sexual and reproductive health, because they do not increase a user’s risk of developing blood clots. Although the risk is small, this can be a side effect of HRT pills.

HRT producers rarely join forces because of commercial sensitivities, even in times of scarcity.

Some hope that the government’s appointment of an ‘HRT tsar’ to address the lack of availability will bring more thought and joint collaboration within the industry.

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“Right now, it seems like menopause management is celebrity driven, and the clinical focus is not what it should be,” Briggs said. “Whoever is nominated needs to have involvement with national organizations and be in collaboration with the royal colleges.”

Briggs is also calling for the availability of HRT products to be standardized across UK regions and nations, regardless of whether they are prescribed in offices or hospitals, to ensure patients can access replacement medication if the usual prescription is not available.

HRT producers don’t expect demand to slow anytime soon. Studies have suggested that between 13% to 14% of UK women are prescribed HRT, despite the fact that around 80% experience some menopausal symptoms.

“I think in the UK a lot of very powerful women in politics and the media have reached menopause age at the same time and are using their platform to discuss this,” Backhouse said.

TV producers confirmed McCall’s latest menopause documentary will air in early May. HRT’s suppliers are prepared for demand to skyrocket again.

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