Severe contraceptive shortage hits the UK

Amy Harris reports on the current lack of availablity of contraceptives and the problems that come with it

Amy Harris
24th February 2020
It is estimated that around three million women take daily contraceptive pills, while more than 500,000 use a long-acting contraceptive such as injections, coils and implants. Now due to shortages, girls and women across the UK are struggling to access different methods of contraception. This could increase the risks of unplanned pregnancies and abortions, doctors and health bodies have warned.

A number of contraceptive pills and long-lasting injectable contraceptives are thought to have been affected, shortly after it was reported that there was a shortage of hormone replacement therapy last year.

There are several contraceptives that have been affected by the shortage, including progestogen-only, combined and long-acting preparation contraceptives. The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare and DHSC (Department of Health and Social Care) have confirmed the shortages of numerous daily pills. These include Synphase, Noriday and Norimin. Due to manufacturing issues Cilest, Loestrin 20 and Loestrin 30 have also been discontinued. The drug firm Pfizer was the first to report having supply problems with Sayana Press, the self-administered injection.

The manufacturers of Noriday claim that there will be limited supplies available until the end of February 2020, while Norimin is still currently out of stock and has no resupply date. Supplies of the Sayana Press injection are expected to be restocked and available from early March 2020.

According to the DHSC the contraceptives Brevinor, Microgynon, Ovranette, Yasmin, Logynon , Qlaira, Norgeston, Femodene, Millinette, GedareL, Rigevidon, TriRegol, lizinna and Cilique, Evra patches, Nuvaring, Noristerat injection, Depo-Provera injection, Mirena (IUS) and Nexplanon injections still remain available to women.

Due to these shortages, it has forced women to seek alternatives or to even stop using contraception entirely. Women are being sent away with prescriptions for products that aren't available, and therefore aren’t getting access to contraception at all, causing issues and chaos for pharmacists, patients and clinicians.

These issues increase the risk of unplanned pregnancy, higher abortion rates and risk increasing poor mental and physical health of females. With the concern that without access to contraceptives, the most vulnerable in society will be affected the most.

There has been no clear reasoning behind what has caused contraception shortages. Manufacturers have made no indication of what has influenced the shortage or the period of time there will be limited access to the products.

The Royal College of GPs is said to be helping women find alternatives to their usual method of contraception. As there are still various daily pills that haven’t been affected by the shortage and are easily accessible to use as alternatives until the issue is solved and supplies are back in stock.

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 and additional ministers demanding for a working group to be set up in order to address the issues and ongoing supply shortages. The letter detailed the distress women are experiencing having to find alternative methods that don’t necessarily agree with them, which has resulted in some women going without contraception altogether.

The UK government is said to be working with manufacturers to determine the issues and expect the shortages to ease soon, with a chance that the current supply difficulties will soon be resolved as a key ingredient in contraceptives being manufactured again.

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