Oestrodose vs Oestrogel: What You Need To Know

There’s been a lot of chat about Oestrodose and Oestrogel on social media lately, but what does it all mean? Senior Health and Beauty writer, Ellie Smith, investigates.

During the perimenopause and menopause, our estrogen levels fluctuate and begin to decline. During this time, we may experience symptoms of low estrogen such as hot flushes, night sweats, headaches, recurring UTIs, anxiety, mood swings, aching joints and more.

In the vast majority of cases, the safest and most effective treatment for these menopausal symptoms is body-identical hormone replacement therapy. This means the hormones are chemically identical to the hormones produced by the body. The main body-identical hormone in HRT is estrogen, which you can take as a gel, patch, pill or spray.

Transdermal estrogen (in a gel, patch or spray) is the safest form of HRT. It’s absorbed directly into the body and doesn’t have to be digested. This means it’s safe for women who experience migraines and is associated with no increased risk of clots or strokes (there is a very small increased risk from taking the pill form, which is why tablets are not generally prescribed in these cases).

There are currently several estradiol gels available in the UK — Sandrena, which comes in sachets, and Oestrogel and Oestrodose, which come in pump packs. In recent weeks, however, there have been reports that some batches of Oestrodose are not helping to treat menopausal symptoms. Many women who have been given Oestrodose in place of their regular Oestrogel prescription have seen their menopausal symptoms return with a vengeance. Read on to discover how these seemingly identical estradiol gels differ and what to do if you find Oestrodose isn’t working for you.

What is the difference between Oestrodose and Oestrogel?

Oestrodose is a parallel import (PI) of Oestrogel. This means the gels should, in theory, be identical in every way, aside from their name. They are both produced by a company called Besins Healthcare and contain identical ingredients. They’re even manufactured in the same factory in Belgium.

Despite this, very many women have reported that Oestrodose is not nearly as effective as Oestrogel. Investigations are currently underway but two reasons for this have been hypothesized:

First, while the same factory produces Oestrodose and Oestrogel, the products’ journey to the UK differs. This is because Oestrogel is produced for the UK market and Oestrodose for the French. The Oestrodose we see in the pharmacies in the UK has been imported from France. This process isn’t carried out by Besins Healthcare and the temperature of storage conditions could perhaps have degraded the gels.

Others have speculated that a difference in the packaging may mean that women are getting less product with each pump of Oestodose than they did with Oestrogel. If this were the case, women may have inadvertently reduced their dose of estrogen, causing symptoms to return.

What to do if Oestrodose doesn’t work for you

Menopause specialist, Dr Louise Newson, says it’s perfectly safe to continue taking Oestrodose if you find it’s effective at relieving your menopausal symptoms. But, if you need an alternative, follow these steps:

  1. Ask your GP to specify ‘Oestrogel’ on your prescription instead of ‘0.06% Estradiol.’ They can also write ‘No PI’ to ensure no parallel import (such as Oestrodose) is prescribed in its place.
  2. If your pharmacist tells you they can’t get hold of Oestrogel let them know there is plenty of stock at AAH, Alliance and Phoenix. They can use the PIP code 217-1775 to locate the product.
  3. Be sure to check your estrogen gel thoroughly before leaving the pharmacy. It can be helpful to take an old bottle of Oestrogel for comparison. Some parallel import products have a over-labelled their bottles with stickers saying ‘Oestrogel’. You may even find Oestrodose over-labelled and packed in an Oestogel box! If you’ve been given the wrong product, hand it back and ask for your paper prescription to be returned to you. Ensure you do this before leaving the pharmacy.
  4. If you have an electronic prescription that your pharmacist is unable to fulfil ask them to send it back to ‘the spine’. This means they can give you a token code that can be taken to a different pharmacist.
  5. findapharma.co.uk is a great, free service that can help you locate a pharmacy that stock Oestrogel near you. This website also allows us to ‘rate’ pharmacists. It highlights those who have been reported as being especially helpful.
  6. If you find your Oestrodose ineffective you can also report it via the Yellow Card Scheme. Simply enter the batch number of your gel. This lets the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) know that investigation is needed.

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