Women around the UK are facing a “major and widespread” shortage of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), leaving some struggling with menopause symptoms and side effects such as night sweats, depression and anxiety.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) estimates one million women in the UK use treatment for their menopausal symptoms, with HRT being the main treatment offered on the NHS.
Although the exact number of women affected by the current shortage is unclear, Dr Hannah Short, a GP specialising in PMS and the menopause, said it is “a major and widespread issue, affecting a large number of women”. However, both doctors and pharmacists are in the dark about the reasons for the shortage and how long it’s likely to last.
While a general problem of drug shortages has been reported over the last 18 months, doctors and pharmacies are now seeing particular issues with HRT, according to Scott McDougall, pharmacist and Director of The Independent Pharmacy.
“Until recently HRT has been part of a wider problem, but it now seems like HRT has become a bigger part of that problem,” he says. “Because of the nature of HRT, it obviously has quite a big impact on women’s lives when they can’t get it.”
The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) told i it has received “a large volume of calls” recently, including more than 100 in the last month, from pharmacists struggling to obtain a supply of HRT preparations for their patients.
Anne, 52, had been taking Elleste Duet tablets for six years to manage a host of distressing menopause symptoms: aches and pains, depression and anxiety, gastrointestinal problems, dizziness and exhaustion, hair loss, and tension headaches.
Nine weeks ago, her pharmacist gave her Femoston, an alternative form of HRT, instead of her usual prescription. “When I asked why, she told me she couldn’t get any HRT ‘for love nor money’ and that was all they had,” Anne told i.