The government is “confident” supplies of HRT medicine will be “back on track” soon after shortages have left some women feeling suicidal.
Maria Caulfield, the patient safety minister, said the main hormone replacement therapy (HRT) product facing a shortage is Oestrogel.
Hormone therapy helps to combat menopausal symptoms, which include anxiety, joint pain, disturbed sleep and hot flushes.
Ms Caulfield said the government has been talking to suppliers after demand “really soared in recent months”, resulting in shortages for “a small number of products”.
Manufacturers are currently increasing supplies and have told the government the supply of Oestrogel should be back to normal “roughly around June”,” she added.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced on Sunday he will be appointing an HRT tsar to help improve supply in both the short and long term.
Recent figures suggest the number of HRT prescriptions in the UK has doubled in the last five years but stocks are running low.
Women are now reportedly sharing their prescriptions, with some said to be made suicidal by the debilitating menopause symptoms they suffer without the medication.
Ms Caulfield added that she has held meetings with trade associations that deal with HRT suppliers.
“They’re confident they’ll get supplies back to the demand levels that we need but we don’t want to leave any stone unturned so we’re bringing in a lead on HRT supply so if there’s anything the government can do to help suppliers we’re in a position to do so,” she said.
She added that while the demand for HRT has risen recently, the COVID pandemic has made some ingredients difficult to source and there have been challenges around the world, not just in the UK.
But, she said: “We’re confident we can get supplies back on track.”
Ms Caulfield did say the government is looking at restricting the number of prescriptions that can be issued but it is “not top of our priority list” and they want women to feel confident in approaching GPs about HRT.
“It’s so important this is sorted for women going through the menopause and that’s why it’s a priority for us,” she added.
She said by next April women will be able to pay £18.70 for a whole year’s supply.
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Her colleague, former Conservative minister Caroline Nokes, last week told parliament access to the oestrogen gel “enables us to sleep and to work competently”.
Labour MP Carolyn Harris, co-chair of the UK menopause taskforce, welcomed the new HRT tsar but said the price change is coming too late and “women deserve better”.
The British Menopause Society said on Monday women who cannot get Oestrogel should consider “equivalent alternative HRT preparations”, including 0.5mg or 1mg of Sandrena gel or Lenzetto spray preparations.
It said GPs should consider using equivalent medication or prescribe estrogen and progestogen separately “to make the closest match or to find a suitable alternative”.