Last month The Telegraph revealed a growing black market in HRT, with women resorting to ‘barter and swap’ bottles amid widespread shortages of some of the most popular forms of therapy.
Oestrogel, one of the most popular brands, is one of the latest to be hit by shortages, with manufacturers Besins Healthcare (UK) Ltd warning last month that stocks had ‘run out’ due to strong demand.
The latest monthly figures show more than 500,000 prescriptions being dispensed in England, up from 238,000 five years ago. It follows campaigns for more openness about menopause and symptom relief.
Government appoints HRT Supply Chair
Mr Javid told the Mail on Sunday he was “committed” to ensuring supplies met the high demand and would use lessons learned during the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine.
“I will urgently convene a meeting with suppliers to discuss ways to work together to improve supply in the short and long term,” he said.
“It’s also clear to me that we need to apply some of the lessons from the Vaccine Task Force to this challenge, so we’ll be recruiting a chair for HRT procurement soon.”
Other drugs have also been hit by manufacturing delays and supply chain issues, exacerbated by disruptions since the pandemic.
The latest drugs hit by the shortage include clomid, widely used to treat infertility, as well as disopyramide for cardiac arrhythmia, and certain types of painkillers diamorphine and tamoxifen, a hormone treatment for breast cancer.
The survey – the first time the PSNC has investigated the impact of the pressures on pharmacies – found that all members faced shortages at least once a week, including 67% who faced such problems daily.
More than half said patients were negatively affected by supply chain issues on a daily basis. On average, pharmacies spend more than five hours a week trying to obtain shortage drugs.
A separate survey of more than 400 pharmacy owners found that 83% of businesses had experienced a significant increase in problems with drug supply chains and delivery.
A total of 92% of respondents said patients were negatively affected by the pressures on pharmacies.
Pharmacists under increased pressure
Mr McCaul said pharmacies were struggling as businesses, with insufficient government funding, as a task that should have taken five minutes now took hours as staff telephoned wholesalers to try to meet patient enquiries. .
The PSNC said patients had been left “frustrated and inconvenienced” while pharmacists came under increasing pressure trying to track down drug supplies, often while battling shortages.
Last week, Caroline Nokes, a former cabinet minister and chair of the women’s and equality committee, said women had been “betrayed” by the government’s failure to ensure women “can get the supplies they we need”.
She told MPs: ‘Chemists in Romsey and Southampton North are completely sold out leaving women of a certain age – and before my honorable friend from North Dorset makes a comment…yes I declare an interest – without access to estrogen gel, which allows us to sleep and work competently.