The UK is facing a shortage of some of the most popular contraceptive pills with GPs having to prescribe millions of women with alternatives.
Several common birth control pills, including Loestrin and Cilest, are among the brands that are in short supply due to problems in the manufacturing process which has led to pharmacies across the country struggling to fulfil prescriptions.
Cilest, supplied by Janssen, was discontinued in July for “commercial” reasons, while Loestrin has been out of stock since June with “’no anticipated resupply date’” according to Galen, which supplies it.
Experts have revealed the problem has continued to get worse in recent months. The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) described the news as “concerning” revealing that it could lead to a rise in pregnancies if women aren’t able to find other forms of contraception.
Katherine O’Brien from BPAS said: “It can take a long time for women to find the method that is right for them. Evidence shows that when contraception is more difficult to access, unplanned pregnancies can result. We advise all women to speak with their GP or healthcare professional to find a suitable alternative.”
According to a report from The Sun, GPs are having to prescribe alternative contraceptive methods to women, some of whom have encountered side-effects from switching medications.
Over 3.1 million British women use a contraceptive pill which means the shortage will have huge implications across the country.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Shortages of oral contraceptives have become significantly worse in recent months. This is very concerning for both GPs and patients… It’s not entirely clear why we are currently experiencing shortages. It seems as though there are several factors at play – and we don’t know how long the shortages will last.”
Professor Stokes-Lampard also said the problem has led to more pressure on already heavily-burdened GPs who have seen an increase in appointments: “as looking for suitable alternatives is very time-consuming.”
“It is also very inconvenient and can be distressing for patients if they can’t get the treatments they are used to”, Professor Stokes-Lampard added.
So, what’s the solution? Even if GPs are prescribing patients with other brands, there’s also a risk that these suppliers won’t be able to support the extra demand either.
Some patients have even revealed that they had no idea of the problem until they went to collect their prescription from the pharmacy only to find it is out of stock, with many having to turn to buying pills online via Superdrug or HealthExpress where a three-month supply can cost around £30.
Let’s hope the manufacturers get their act together so women can get the oral contraception they want and need.