Women are struggling to “sleep and work competently” due to a shortage of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) drugs used to treat menopausal symptoms, former minister Caroline Nokes has said.
The UK has been experiencing a nationwide drug shortage since 2019, due to manufacturing and supply issues.
Speaking in the Commons on Thursday, Nokes, chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, demanded a debate on the issue in a bid to resolve the issue.
She said: ‘Chemists in Romsey and Southampton North are completely sold out leaving women of a certain age – and before my honorable friend from North Dorset comments…yes, I declare an interest – without access to estrogen gel, which allows us to sleep and work competently.
‘Please will the Head of House hold a debate in this place following the brilliant debate by the Right Honorable Lady of Swansea East to ensure that pharmacies work hand in hand with the DHSC so we can get the supplies we need?
In response, Mark Spencer, the Commons leader, said: ‘I can say that the Department of Health and Social Care is aware of the supply issues affecting a limited number of HRT products. However, most HRT products, including alternatives to those experiencing supply issues, are available.
“The government is working closely with providers and stakeholders to resolve these issues as quickly as possible and to ensure the NHS is kept up to date on a regular basis.”
In response to the demand, social media users responded to Ms Nokes on Twitter, expressing their frustration over the shortages.
“Women make the massive decision to take HRT in the first place and then we have to fight to find supplies of it by walking around pharmacies to see who has it in stock! It’s awful. Apparently no emergency from the from this government,” one user wrote.
Another added: “Great job Carolyn [sic] but seems to be going on and on and we are not getting answers to the HRT supply shortage issue. Many women cannot do without this drug. Never shortage with other drugs, viagra, contraception, antidepressants. We need answers NOW.
In October, the government promised that the cost of HRT prescriptions would be “significantly reduced” in England.
Prescriptions cost £9.35 per item in England on the NHS, but HRT is free in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Labor MP Nick Smith asked Mr Spencer in the Commons on Thursday why there was ‘no date yet for HRT prescription changes in England’.
Mr Spencer replied that it was ‘something the Health Secretary is looking at, at the moment’.
The number of HRT prescriptions in England has doubled over the past five years.
HRT drugs come in various forms, such as tablets, vaginal creams, skin patches and gels.
It’s the most common form of treatment for menopausal symptoms, which can include hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings.