HRT crisis forces suffering women to buy menopause drugs on the black market

22 April 2022, 06:08

The UK HRT shortage has forced women to buy menopause drugs on the black market
The UK HRT shortage has forced women to buy menopause drugs on the black market. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

A Conservative former minister denounced the shortage of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) products as she told the Commons that access to the oestrogen gel "enables us to sleep and to work competently".

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Caroline Nokes, chairwoman of the Women and Equalities Committee, raised the issue of pharmacies in Romsey and Southampton North "completely" running out of supplies of HRT, a medication which offsets the symptoms of menopause.

During business questions, Ms Nokes called for a debate in the Commons to ensure "we can get the supplies that we need".

Commons Leader Mark Spencer claimed the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is "aware of the supply issues" and that the Government is working to resolve them "as quickly as possible".

Ms Nokes said: "It is not just about the prescription changes for HRT but supplies of HRT.

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"Pharmacies in Romsey and Southampton North have completely run out, which leaves women of a certain age - and before my honourable friend from North Dorset makes a comment... yes, I declare an interest - without access to the oestrogen gel, which enables us to sleep and to work competently.

"Please, will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate in this place following on from the brilliant debate by the right honourable lady for Swansea East to make sure that pharmacies are working hand in glove with the DHSC so that we can get the supplies that we need?"

Mr Spencer replied: "I can say the Department of Health and Social Care is aware of the supply issues that are affecting a limited number of HRT products.

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However, most HRT products, including alternatives to those experiencing supply issues, are available.

"The Government is working closely with suppliers and stakeholders to resolve these issues as quickly as possible, and to ensure the NHS is informed on a regular basis."

Earlier, Labour MP Nick Smith (Blaenau Gwent) also pressed Mr Spencer on the fact that there is "no date yet for the HRT prescription changes in England".

He said: "Can we have a statement on HRT changes to show the Government is taking women's health seriously?"

Mr Spencer said it is "something the Health Secretary is looking at at this moment in time".

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Labour MP Carolyn Harris, who is chairwoman of the government’s menopause task force told The Times newspaper: "In recent months stocks of Oestrogel, which is used by about 30,000 women, have almost run out and women have resorted to buying it on the black market.

Last week it was reported that women were meeting in car parks to swap HRT drugs.

More than 500,000 HRT prescriptions are issued in England monthly – up from 238,000 five years ago.

In October, the Government announced that the cost of repeat prescriptions for HRT would be significantly reduced in England.

The change is expected to save women as much as £205 per year.