A national shortage of HRT which could affect “almost all” of the UK’s 200,000 menopausal women on the drug is now threatening the availability of alternatives, experts have warned.
Hormone Replacement Therapy replaces the oestrogen that the body stops producing during menopause. New figures show that around half of these brands are currently unavailable in the country.
High street pharmacies, including Lloyds and Boots, are said to be experiencing shortages thought to have been caused by manufacturing issues.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “It’s incredibly concerning for both GPs and women that there are currently significant national shortage of many HRT patches and some tablets“.
She added that there is also the worry that “alternatives to regular treatments might also become unavailable further down the line”.
Around 2.5million prescriptions of HRT, which can be administered as patches, pills or gels, are made every year in England.
Women using HRT have written about their experiences of the shortage on a Facebook group called The Menopause Room. One wrote that they had “been told by several pharmacies in my area that it won’t be available until next year”.
Others commented that they had been forced to change brands but that in some cases they did not work as well or brought on the return of symptoms including depression and hot sweats.
Stock levels at the UK’s two largest pharmaceutical wholesalers, seen by The Daily Mail, show that Alliance has run out of nine out of 27 HRT medications, while a further five are low in stock, and AAH Pharmaceuticals has run out of 15 of the 24 HRT brands it typically stocks.
Dr Haitham Hamoda, chairman of the British Menopause Society, told the newspaper: “There are 3.4million women in the UK between 50 and 64. The majority of these will have symptoms of the menopause, and the latest figures show around 200,000 are on HRT.
“There are a number of factors behind the shortage. Some products have been discontinued entirely and others have had manufacturing issues, creating a temporary shortage.”
Pharmacist Scott McDougall, director of the Independent Pharmacy, added: “The most commonly prescribed drugs are the worst affected. This has caused a domino effect that means other drugs have run out of stock because they did not foresee the increased demand. Almost all women on HRT will be affected in some way.”
The Department of Health and Social Care said it first became aware of a supply problem in December 2018 and is working with suppliers.
A spokesperson said: “We are aware of ongoing supply issues with some HRT preparations due to manufacturing delays.