Two contraceptive pills will go out of stock until summer 2019, forcing prescribers to switch some women to alternative brands.
In a letter from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Sarah McAleer, principal pharmacist on the Department’s medicine supply team, said that the pharmaceutical companies Bayer and Pfizer have advised the DHSC of upcoming stock issues for their respective contraceptive pills, Microgynon 30 and Ovranette.
The letter, sent on 21 May 2019, said Bayer has notified the government that its combined contraceptive pill Microgynon 30 will be out of stock from late May 2019 until the week commencing 8 July 2019, owing to “capacity constraints at their manufacturing site in Germany”.
Pfizer also informed the DHSC that it would also be “out of stock of Ovranette tablets from early June until August 2019 owing to capacity constraints”, according to the letter.
As a result, the DHSC has asked prescribers and pharmacists to “work together during this time to understand local availability of ethinylestradiol 30 microgram/levonorgestrel 150 microgram products”.
The letter has advised prescribers to switch patients who run out of their supply to other combination pills “Rigevidon (Consilient Health), Levest (Morningside Healthcare) or Elevin (Med-Rx), if clinically appropriate”.
“The DHSC has been in contact with all the alternative suppliers and can confirm that there are sufficient supplies available from certain suppliers to maintain demand throughout the duration of this supply issue,” it added.
But Nuttan Tanna, pharmacist consultant in women’s health and older people at North West London Hospitals NHS Trust, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that some women experience anxiety and other side effects “when they are changed over to what is recommended as a suitable alternative”.
She added: “This can be managed as advised by DHSC with proactive patient consultation and support. But do GPs have the time? Will they discuss with their patients or will the woman first hear of this when she collects a prescription and sees that it’s a different product?”
“It would be really great from patient care point of view if practice pharmacists and community pharmacists were roped in to support this patient pathway,” she said. “Changing over can be managed efficiently, but the patient needs to know when and how for contraceptive efficacy to be maintained.”
Bayer said in a separate letter: “Patient wellbeing is our primary concern and we apologise for this unfortunate situation.
“Bayer will continue to take every available action to minimise the impact of this supply shortage and will provide status updates if the situation changes.”