Menopausal hormone therapy will now be rationed until October as pharmacies struggle to restock the best drugs.

Health ministers this week extended a ban on long-term prescriptions for hard-to-get medicines by three months.


Demand for hormone replacement gels has grown over the past few years (image)Author: Alamy

A surge in demand for patient-favorite Estrogel is causing a supply drought as well as restrictions on 11 other hormone replacement therapies.

The three-month rationing order, known as the severe deficit protocol, was first introduced in April and expired this week – but has now been extended for another three months.

A government source said stocks had improved since the spring, but some drugs still had supply problems.

Health Minister Maria Caulfield told the Sun: “As demand for HRT has increased dramatically, we have seen some problems in the supply chain which have caused shortages of some products.

“Of course, it will take time to ensure that there is a long-term sustainable supply to meet the growing demand.

“This is why we are proceeding cautiously and taking precautions by extending most of the severe shortage protocols currently in place.

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“It will still limit prescriptions for certain products for three months and allow pharmacists to offer replacement products if necessary.”

Ministers were forced to act in April when many women discovered they could not get HRT prescriptions.

The estrogen rub Oestrogel has been hit hardest by the shortage, with manufacturers Besins Healthcare even opening a new factory to cope with demand.

The HRT Task Force is now working with suppliers to increase production as The Sun’s Fabulous Menopause Matters campaign calls for more support for women going through the transition.

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Dr Paula Briggs, from the British Menopause Society, said: “The situation is evolving and it’s good that we now have someone in government actively monitoring it.

“Also, pharmaceutical companies are paying a lot more attention, and they update us regularly.

“Supply does vary by country and it comes in and out, but most people can access treatment or a temporary alternative.”

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