Pharmaceutical company Besins Healthcare has responded to the growing market for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) products by opening a new manufacturing facility in Spain.

The UK demand for HRT medicines and their use to alleviate symptoms of the menopause have increased significantly over the last two years, leading to supply interruptions.

The new facility will provide a ‘long-term solution’, Besins said, with the plant predicted to boost global and European manufacturing output by 30%.

Pending regulatory approvals, the facility, in Muel, near Zaragoza in northern Spain, will be able to provide new supplies by the middle of 2024.

The first products to be manufactured will be oestrogen gel (Oestrogel) and progesterone capsules (Utrogestan, 100mg and 200mg).

The opening of the plant follows Besins’ acquisition in 2022 of an existing manufacturing site in Drogenbos, Belgium, which is now focused exclusively on the production of the company’s HRT gels.

Besins said the Spanish and Belgian factories form part of its wider strategy to improve stability of HRT product supply.

Del Cohen, managing director of Besins Healthcare UK, said: ‘The cutting-edge facility located in Spain is poised to address the projected demand for our flagship HRT products, Utrogestan and Oestrogel. Importantly, it offers ample room for potential expansion.’

He added: ‘We deeply appreciate the remarkable dedication of healthcare professionals not only within the NHS but also beyond its borders. They are instrumental in providing patient-centred care, which increasingly empowers women to make choices in their menopause journey.’

The ongoing shortage of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been attributed to an increase in demand for the drugs following media coverage of menopause and the circulation of social media posts.

In April this year, the government launched a new HRT pre-payment certificate (PPC) to allow patients to access a year’s supply of HRT for the same cost as two single prescription charges.

Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay said at the time that this would make HRT more accessible than ever before – helping around 400,000 women save hundreds of pounds a year.’

In May this year, shortages of Utrogestan led the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to restrict supply to just two months’ at a time – a serious shortage protocol (SSP) which is still ongoing.

And at the time, minister for the women’s health strategy Maria Caulfield issued a public statement describing the SSP as ‘decisive action’ that would mean more women would be able to access Utrogestan.

Meanwhile, manufacturer Besins had said that it was ‘taking steps to increase supply’.