The UK shortage of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been attributed to an increase in media coverage of menopause and the circulation of social media posts.

The Government this week confirmed there is currently a shortage of a ‘limited number’ of HRT products, while a leading HRT gel manufacturer has revealed ‘exceptionally high’ current demand for products.

This comes after prescription data, published last month, suggested HRT prescriptions had doubled over the last five years.

The widely used HRT gel Oestrogel is currently in short supply due to it being in ‘exceptionally high demand,’ its manufacturer Besign Healthcare has said.

Besign Healthcare told The Pharmacist it believes ‘increased media coverage on the menopause’ is causing the increasing appetite among consumers for HRT.

It also said an increase in social media posts ‘driven by women demanding better and more equal treatment of the menopause’ was causing the high demand.

But the supply of Oestrogel is expected to be sufficient by June, the manufacturer said.

This comes after Conservative MP Edward Argar said on 5 April that the Government was ‘aware’ of supply issues affecting a ‘very limited number of HRT products’, in response to a parliamentary question on HRT shortages in pharmacies.

‘However, most remain available, including alternatives to those experiencing supply issues’ he added.

In response to the recent shortage, Dr Edward Morris, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: ‘We understand that the shortages of some types of HRT can be distressing for women.

‘We strongly encourage women who have been affected by these shortages to speak to a healthcare professional, as many alternatives are available.

‘They will also be able to advise other treatment options if an exact match is not possible.’

On its website, the British Menopause Society (BMS) advises women who are experiencing difficulty in obtaining Oestrogel to consider ‘equivalent alternative HRT preparations.

‘This could include Sandrena gel (0.5mg or 1mg) or Lenzetto spray preparations,’ they said.

It reads: ‘Prescribers should consider using equivalent preparations to those that their patients are currently using. If an exact match is not possible, prescribers can seek guidance available on the BMS website to clarify equivalent doses.’

Last year, the Government announced it would be launching a single annual prepayment for HRT.

The scheme, which some thought was meant to begin ‘within months’, was first announced in October 2021 and has the potential to save individuals up to £205 by enabling women to pay one charge for a 12-month supply of HRT.

Some in the pharmacy sector had previously told The Pharmacist that the Government's new proposal could be a ‘nightmare’ for pharmacy teams if not implemented correctly.