A hormone replacement therapy (HRT) tsar will appointed by the government as a shortages of medication have left some women feeling suicidal, the health secretary has said.
The announcement comes as recent figures suggest the number of HRT prescriptions in the UK has doubled in the last five years but stocks are running low, with one manufacturer of a commonly-used hormone replacement gel reporting supply problems.
Women are now reportedly sharing their prescriptions, with some said to be made suicidal by the debilitating menopause symptoms they suffer without the medication.
Sajid Javid told The Mail on Sunday he was "determined" to make sure supplies were meeting the high demand and would use lessons learned during the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
"I will be urgently convening a meeting with suppliers to look at ways we can 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 taskforce to this challenge, so we will soon be recruiting for an HRT supply chairperson."
Labour MP Carolyn Harris, co-chair of the UK menopause taskforce, said: "I welcome the secretary of state's intervention on this. There are a lot of women relaying on him to improve the current situation. We should never have been in this position."
While the government in October committed to lowering the cost of HRT with women being allowed to save £205 each year by avoiding paying for repeat prescriptions, Ms Harris said the change will not come in until April 2023, prompting her to say "women deserve better".
She also told the BBC that "women take their own lives out of the anger and the frustration and the insecurity and anxiety" they suffer from being without the medication.
Hormone therapy helps to combat menopausal symptoms, which include anxiety, joint pain, disturbed sleep and hot flushes.
Jo McEwan, from menopause training company PositivePause, which provides support to women and organisations, welcomed the announcement.
She said: "What's happened is the supply can't keep up with the demand now, clearly.
"But this isn't the first time it's happened so I think, yes, let's make somebody accountable or get someone whose got that authority to say 'right, let's get the big picture on this, let's talk to the stakeholders, let's talk to the pharma companies, and let's ensure that women are not, as you say, trading HRT in car parks and buying it from abroad'."