There's A Contraception Shortage. Here's What You Need To Know

These are the medicines impacted – plus what's being done to rectify the problem.
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Women and girls are struggling to access contraception in the UK, say health bodies, who warn that the ongoing issue could lead to a rise in unplanned pregnancies and abortions.

For a while now, women have struggled to access hormone replacement therapy (HRT) due to manufacturing and supply issues, but many have had problems accessing contraception as well.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), British Menopause Society and Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare have written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, calling for a working group to be set up to address ongoing supply constraints.

Dr Edward Morris, president of the RCOG, said HRT supply issues should begin to improve from February. However, a number of HRT medications and contraceptives remain unavailable – some until the end of this year and some with no timeline as to when they’ll be available.

When pushed on this, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), told HuffPost UK: “We understand how distressing medicine shortages are and we want to reassure patients we are doing everything we can to help them access treatments as soon as possible.

“We are working closely with suppliers and partners to resolve this as soon as possible and ensure relevant information is shared across the NHS on a regular basis.”

What are the risks?

Women have previously told HuffPost UK it’s taken them up to 12 years to find a contraceptive that suits their body and doesn’t land them with horrendous side effects. Some reported that certain hormonal contraceptives have caused them symptoms of depression, suicidal thoughts, weight gain, mood swings, inflamed skin and swollen breasts.

The latest issues in accessing preferred contraceptives mean women are being forced to use alternatives – or nothing at all – risking poor physical and mental wellbeing, as well as unplanned pregnancy. There’s concern that not being able to access contraceptives will affect the most vulnerable in our society, too.

Dr Morris said the lack of transparency around why these shortages have occurred is “extremely frustrating”.

“Thousands of women and girls have been adversely affected by this ongoing situation and they deserve better,” he said.

Dr Asha Kasliwal, president of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), said women are sent away with prescriptions for unavailable products and end up “lost in a system” that is “frustrating” to navigate. She added: “This is causing utter chaos for patients, clinicians and pharmacists.”

What contraceptive methods are impacted?

A DHSC spokesperson confirmed the following contraceptive pills are affected:

:: Synphase. The manufacturer advises that supplies will be available from the end of this week.

:: Noriday. Limited supplies are available until the end of February 2020.

:: Norimin. Currently out of stock and the supplier is unable to advise on a resupply date.

Other forms of contraceptives affected include:

:: Sayana Press (Medroxyprogesterone acetate 104mg) injection. Supplies are expected to be available from early March 2020.

Dr Kasliwal said in the case of Sayana Press, which is a self-injectable contraceptive, a truly equivalent alternative does not exist.

“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,” she said.

If you’re concerned about how these shortages may impact you, it’s important to speak to your GP.