Madelaine McTernan has been appointed the new HRT tsar to spearhead efforts to deal with shortages of the medicine.
She was part of the taskforce involved in the nationwide Covid vaccine rollout and credited with playing a vital part in securing supplies.
McTernan will now be expected to fix supply issues affecting some hormone replacement therapy (HRT) products used by about a million women in the UK to treat menopause symptoms.
The Department for Health and Social Care says McTernan will use her knowledge from supplying vaccines to help address the shortage.
Commenting on the appointment, health secretary Sajid Javid said: “Madelaine McTernan will use her excellent skills and expertise to build on the success of the Vaccine Taskforce to bolster supply of vital medicines to women across the country.”
Demand for HRT, according to DHSC, has risen by 38 per cent in the past seven years, as access has been extended, but most of the 70 products available in the UK remain in good supply.
“I understand how much women rely on HRT which is why we will leave no stone unturned to help make sure women can get the HRT they need,” Javid added.
A government press release issued on Friday (April 29) said that McTernan’s appointment was part of a “wider government agenda to reduce the gender health gap and increase support for menopausal and peri-menopausal women”.
Pharmacy minister Maria Caulfield said: “It’s great we’ve seen demand for HRT rise so much over the last year as it means women are accessing the right support. HRT can help women manage severe, sometimes debilitating, symptoms of the menopause, allowing them to stay in workplaces and live more normal lives.
“I want all women to feel empowered to speak to their GP about whether HRT would be appropriate for them, and for GPs to feel confident in prescribing.”
“The new Taskforce will play a vital role engaging with suppliers, stakeholders and across government to make sure every avenue is explored to ensure all women who want HRT can access it.”
The HRT taskforce will be responsible for working with suppliers to find out how shortages can be reduced in the short and long term, she added.
A Cambridge law graduate, McTernan has a background investment banking. She will remain director general of the Vaccine Taskforce but will be primarily focused on HRT supply for the for the short term.
“We will apply the key learnings from the successful way the Vaccine Taskforce have procured life-saving vaccines during the pandemic to help ensure women have reliable ongoing access to these critical medicines,” she said.
Meanwhile, independent contractor and Cheam and South Sutton PCN Community Pharmacy lead, Reena Barai, told the the BBC that managing shortages of HRT gel had become “a factor of day-to-day life for pharmacists” and that they would spend hours trying to arrange for an alternative to be prescribed.
“But by the time we get that prescription for an alternative, that alternative is no longer available as well so it’s a bit of a vicious cycle for women at the moment,” she told the BBC.
“Somebody needs to get a grip on the situation and co-ordinate the response.”
Barai, who’s also an NPA board member and a PSNC committee member, suggested pharmacists could be given the ability to make minor changes to a prescription when medication is out of stock or rules over sharing medicines with other pharmacists could be relaxed to ease supply issues.