The government has announced new measures to tackle ongoing shortages of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), with new restrictions on the exportation of certain drugs at risk of shortage.

The restrictions apply to all variations of HRT products, some of which currently face supply shortages due to manufacturing issues.

The Department of Health and Social Care said it has been working closely with affected suppliers to "monitor the situation and mitigate the potential impact on patients, and these measures will further reduce the impact on patients".

The restrictions are designed to curb parallel exports of these medicines, whereby medicines destined for UK patients are sold abroad for a higher price for profit.

A total of 19 HRT drugs will be subject to export restrictions to ensure that sufficient alternatives remain available for the HRT drugs that are in short supply, while similar measures are in place in other European countries including France and Spain.

New restrictions for a further five medicines, including all adrenaline auto-injectors and Hepatitis B vaccines, have come into force to safeguard these products for patients.

To further protect UK patients from medicine shortages, the government has also introduced Serious Shortage Protocols for the antidepressant Fluoxetine, which will allow pharmacists to supply an alternative strength or pharmaceutical form of Fluoxetine when patients have a prescription for the 10mg, 30mg and 40mg capsules, which are currently in shortage.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has welcomed the move.

“The decision to take precautionary measures to protect medicines supplies will be very much welcomed by our members. It means that these stockpiles of medicines which companies have built over previous months are better protected and available for use only by the NHS patients for which they were intended," commented Dr Rick Greville, the Association's director of Supply Chain.