Menopause Support founder Diane Danzebrink heard from one woman who had phoned around 30 pharmacies in her local area in a bid to secure mormone replacement Therapy (HRT) to no avail.
Diane is one of the menopause experts quoted in a news story in The I Newspaper discussing the shortages. which the Department of Health and Social Care maintains are still not at crisis levels.
“Women are desperate and so they will do desperate things,” says Diane. “I’ve heard from one woman who’d phoned round 30 pharmacies in her county to see if she could get what she needed.”
Others, she says, are borrowing from friends or turning to private prescribers and pharmacies, some of which are charging way over the odds. One woman in her network paid more than £100 for a three-month prescription, instead of the £18.70 it would have cost her on the NHS.
“There are a lot of patients for whom HRT is a lifeline, whether they’re a naturally menopausal woman or a younger woman affected by early medical or surgical menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency (POI),” says Dr Hannah Short, a GP and co-author of The Complete Guide to Early Menopause and POI.
While HRT is hugely important for these patients’ general day-to-day wellbeing and functioning, she explains, it isn’t just about tackling immediate symptoms like hot flushes, anxiety, sexual changes and difficulty sleeping. HRT also provides long-term protection from conditions such as osteoporosis, heart disease and dementia, which is particularly important for those going through an early menopause.
HRT can also be a lifesaving drug for trans patients, she adds, and for people using it to treat conditions like premenstrual dysphoric disorder. “Both of these groups, for different reasons, will be psychologically affected by the shortages,” says Dr Short.
If you’re affected by the shortages, Diane’s advice is to ask your pharmacist which products they have available, and then ask your GP to prescribe it for you. Doctors can also access advice from the British Menopause Society about which alternative products to offer. If you usually use a gel, for example, there may be an equivalent patch that would work for you in the meantime.
“Ultimately, however, it is up to drugs companies and the Government to solve the supply problems that are ruining so many people’s lives right now” she added.