HRT Shortages After Prescriptions Double

menopause perimenopause clinicThe number of women taking HRT has doubled over the last 4 years, causing supply issues that look set to affect hundreds of thousands of women. 

Menopause can be a difficult time for women, causing a range of unpleasant symptoms that can affect daily life.

In recent years, campaigning has raised awareness not only of the menopause but also of the way hormone replacement therapy can ease the symptoms.

TV presenter Davina McCall has been key in communicating the options and putting some of the concerns that women had about the risks into better context. Experts now concur that for most, the benefits of HRT outweigh the risks and this message has now received public recognition.

Figures show that 537,986 NHS England prescriptions were written for drugs classified as ‘female sex hormones and their modulators’ in December 2021, compared to 259,031 in December 2017; an increase of 93%.

Now the increase in demand is leading to supply issues. The PSNC (Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee) has warned that 67% of its 11,000 chemist members are facing supply daily problems.

Oestrogel, the most popular HRT medicine, has been in short supply since the start of the year. Women who have found the drug a lifeline are reluctant to try alternatives due to fear of extreme symptoms returning.

It isn’t just about hot flushes. Menopause can also cause anxiety, insomnia and depression which can last for years. Other symptoms include night sweats, headache/migraine, palpitations, dry mouth/skin/eyes/vagina, aching joints and ‘brain fog’.

If HRT can relieve the misery of menopause symptoms, little wonder that lack of ready availability has led to stories of the medication now being sold on the black market. Some women have reported feeling suicidal without the medicine and symptoms can return with surprising rapidity and ferocity.

Pharmacists must dispense the exact product and amount of medication on the prescription. They are not able to provide a substitute without consulting the GP who provided the prescription.

The situation underlines the numbers of women struggling with menopausal symptoms in the UK. It also shows that HRT has become a lifeline for many.

Manufacturers say they are increasing supplies and Health Secretary Sajid Javid has committed to appoint an HRT tsar to champion the issue, although critics have said the situation doesn’t need a tsar.

Labour MP Carolyn Harris, co-chairwoman of the UK menopause taskforce, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

“I welcome the fact that the Secretary of State is doing something about this, because somebody needed to, because up until now they’ve not bothered. But it doesn’t really need a tsar, if I’m honest. He could do this, he could decide to loosen the regulations on the formularies and make this product available across the country. It could happen very, very quickly.”

For more information see British Menopause Society update on HRT supply

Menopause Clinic London

The Smart Clinics offers support for women throughout all stages of the menopause. The menopause clinic is led by a team of experts from The Female Health Clinic, recognised by the BMS (British Menopause Society).

Many women have been helped to regain a better quality of life and the message is that it is never too late to seek help – whatever you are experiencing!

Hormone replacement therapies can be helpful not only in reducing symptoms during the perimenopause, but also provide some protection against post-menopause concerns such as brittle bones and weaker pelvic floor muscles.


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