Could a UK Shortage of Contraceptive Pills Lead to Unplanned Pregnancies?

Health experts are warning that Britain could experience a wave of unplanned pregnancies due to a nationwide shortage of certain contraceptive pills, such as Dianette and Zoely to name just two, although Medical Specialists still have other contraceptives such as Cerazette, Marvelon and Yasmin in stock.

Pharmacies up and down the country are feeling the effects of manufacturing issues with some of the leading brands of pills, causing panic amongst many women who are struggling to have their prescriptions fulfilled by said pharmacies.

GPs have got their hands full due to the supply issues, with many having to spend time finding alternatives and some patients booking multiple appointments to discuss other treatment options that may be available.

Some women are unhappy that they have been switched to an entirely different drug than their usual treatments, whilst others have even seen their normal quantity of pills been slashed and rationed out due to the growing crisis.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) warned the problems may lead to a spate of unplanned pregnancies across the country.

An estimated 3.1million women in the UK take a contraceptive pill, though the shortages actually extend to long-acting contraceptive jabs too.

The exact reasons for the shortages are unclear, with no individual or company yet to come forward with specific reason(s) why there are problems with these particular medicines.

Firms are blaming problems at their manufacturing plants, with some shortages even predicted to run into next year.

The crisis comes after a shortage of hormone replacement therapies led to menopausal women going on the internet and paying to import patches from abroad.

Katherine O’Brien, from BPAS, described the shortage as “concerning” and added: “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.”

Dr Anne Connolly, of the Primary Care Women’s Health Forum, said: “Extra work when trying to source alternatives is an issue, with a risk that a woman might be without her contraception for a while.”

Prof 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.

“The shortages are already having a massive impact on our patients’ lives – as well as GP workload – and need to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

Dr Connolly added: “There has been a lot of focus recently on HRT shortages but we are seeing shortages of contraceptives too.

“At this stage it is not clear how much of an issue this will become or when it may end.

“Contraceptive pills are a high risk product, in that there can be serious consequences for women if you cannot get hold of them.

“If you cannot get HRT it may be unpleasant but if women are unable to find a contraceptive that suits them it can result in unwanted pregnancies.”

The Department of Health said: “We are aware there are supply issues affecting a small number of oral contraceptive pills due to manufacturing delays and we are working closely with the affected suppliers to resolve these problems as quickly as possible.

“Supplies of several other oral contraceptives are freely available and patients affected should discuss alternative options with their clinician or pharmacist as soon as possible.”

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