Medical experts are calling for action to resolve the national shortage of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) patches used to treat menopausal symptoms.
The shortage is causing difficulties for thousands of women in the UK, medical experts have said.
In a joint statement, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), the British Menopause Society (BMS) and the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) said they were receiving multiple queries from women unable to get HRT products.
About half of the most commonly prescribed HRT products, which replace hormones including oestrogen that naturally decline during menopause, are out of stock. The high street pharmacies Boots and Lloyds are among those said to be experiencing shortages.
Doctors are also reporting that HRT is becoming difficult to prescribe because of the shortages.
Prof Lesley Regan, president of the RCOG, said: “We are very concerned that thousands of women are struggling to get their HRT prescriptions, or even prescriptions for alternative treatments. HRT is essential for many women to ensure that they are able to continue to lead a high-quality life.”
The crisis reportedly started in late 2018 when supply issues that began in China forced some manufacturers to stop production of the patches. This resulted in increased demand for other brands, which in turn became scarce.
Shortages are expected to continue until next year.
Haitham Hamoda, a consultant gynaecologist and chair of the BMS, said women experiencing difficulties needed to be offered support and advice on how to get supplies of their HRT medications.
He said: “The British Menopause Society has advised prescribers to find equivalent types by looking at the oestrogen and progestogen component and matching it as closely as possible to another brand.
“Beyond this, we need to understand the reasons behind this and what measures could be taken to resolve this issue and to prevent it happening again in the future.”
Dr Asha Kasliwal, president of the FSRH, said she was treating women every week affected by the shortage. She said: “These women are not being able to receive the treatment that best suits their needs, leaving some women to cope with quite debilitating symptoms that directly impact on their daily lives.
“It is important that the Department of Health and Social Care continues to work with suppliers of HRT medicines. We need to ensure that women are not disadvantaged further because of the shortage, and that they access HRT treatment when they need it.”
The DHSC said it was aware of the ongoing supply issues. A spokesperson said: “We are working closely with all suppliers to maintain overall flow of medicines to patients.”