Scottish medicines body to reassess menopause drug amid HRT shortage

Davina McCall documentary highlights benefits and postcode lottery of previously rejected utrogestan

A sought-after hormone replacement therapy is being reassessed for use in Scotland as the TV presenter and menopause campaigner Davina McCall revealed a postcode lottery in its prescription across the UK.

Amid an ongoing supply crisis of HRT products, McCall spoke to specialists about the benefits of utrogestan, a “body identical” micronised progesterone, which is derived from plants, in her Channel 4 documentary Sex, Mind and Menopause, broadcast on Monday.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC), an independent group that decides which medicines should be accepted for use by NHS Scotland, rejected utrogestan for general use in 2009.

But on Tuesday, the SMC revealed that – while it was not previously satisfied that the drug offered value for money – another company now owned the rights to the medicine since that advice was issued and it had been encouraged to resubmit its application.

A spokeswoman said: “It has been urged to make a resubmission so that we can assess the evidence and provide updated advice to NHS Scotland.”

The Scottish government said it was committed to ensuring that menopausal women received equitable access to medicines, adding that although utrogestan was not routinely available, clinicians could still prescribe it on a case-by-case basis.

A spokesperson added: “We have encouraged the manufacturer of utrogestan to resubmit its medicine to the Scottish Medicines Consortium, so that it can be considered for routine access within NHS Scotland, and we understand that the manufacturer is in the process of confirming timescales for a resubmission. We have been in discussions with the company regarding their resubmission plans since early this year.”

Caroline Phipps-Urch, who lives in Edinburgh and presents the Menopause Sisters show on UK Health Radio with her sibling, the GP Dr Claire Phipps, started a petition last year to persuade her local health board, NHS Lothian, to prescribe the drug.

“A lot of women just don’t know this is a possibility,” she told the Guardian, adding that many specialists consider utrogestan safer than synthetic progesterones, such as the Mirena coil, and only marginally more expensive.

She said that celebrities like McCall speaking out about their experiences of the menopause was adding to a momentum among all women to push for better treatment. “A lot of celebrities around this age are feeling confident to speak out about it, and more generally there’s a feeling amongst women that we’ve had enough.”

“Women’s health in general has long been neglected and this is about having shared decision-making with their GP and about choice. We know that HRT protects women from heart disease, stroke and osteoporosis, so we’re looking at saving money in treatment long-term.”

Last week, Prof Martin Marshall, the chair of the Royal College of GPs, told the Guardian that “so many” women were experiencing distress and some were risking serious side-effects by using medication prescribed to others, because of acute shortages of some HRT products, which are used by about 1 million women in the UK to treat symptoms of the menopause.

• This article was amended on 5 May 2022 to add a Scottish government statement making clear that the resubmission discussions began at the start of this year, rather than after Davina McCall’s programme as an earlier version indicated. This was part of the original Scottish government response, but was not included in the previous version of the article.


Libby Brooks Scotland correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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