The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the British Menopause Society have written jointly to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock demanding an immediate enquiry into the ongoing shortages of contraceptives and HRT.
They say the shortages are affecting the physical and mental wellbeing of women and girls, and could lead to a rise in unplanned pregnancies and abortions, disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable in society.
The MIMS live drug shortages tracker currently lists the oral contraceptive pills Norimin (ethinylestradiol/norethisterone), Akizza (ethinylestradiol/gestodene) and Noriday (norethisterone) as out of stock, along with the depot injection Sayana Press (medroxyprogesterone acetate). The combined pill Zoely (estradiol/nomegestrol) is unavailable until 2022.
Dr Asha Kasliwal, President of the FSRH, said: 'We are very concerned by the continuing reported shortages of contraceptives which may inadvertently lead to a rise in unplanned pregnancies. We have received queries from our members who are finding it increasingly hard to prescribe contraception.
'We are aware that women are sent away with prescriptions for unavailable products and end up lost in a system that is frustrating to navigate. This is causing utter chaos for patients, clinicians and pharmacists.
'For some contraceptive methods, a truly equivalent alternative just does not exist. This is the case of Sayana Press, a self-injectable contraceptive. Women who use Sayana Press now have to see a healthcare professional to access a non-self-injectable alternative, which is undoubtedly an extra burden for them, increasing demand in busy GP practices and sexual and reproductive healthcare clinics.'
Expressing frustration at the lack of transparency around the reasons for the shortages, Dr Edward Morris, President of RCOG, said: 'We are calling on the DHSC to set up a working group with industry, regulatory agencies and our organisations to get to the root of why shortages in both HRT and contraceptives have occurred. This working group must work together to ensure that this situation is prevented from happening again.'
Pfizer, manufacturer of several of the contraceptives currently out of stock, said: 'We work very hard to avoid medicines shortages but, despite our best efforts, unexpected delays can occur. The supply issues we are experiencing with Norimin, Noriday and Sayana Press are due to delays at the manufacturing sites. We recognise the importance of these medicines to the people who rely on them as well as their physicians, and are doing everything possible to minimize the shortage.'