HRT shortage is a national scandal - it's a vital support
PUBLISHED: 17:50 14 August 2019 | UPDATED: 17:50 14 August 2019
Apparently there's a national shortage of HRT medication, which Rachel Moore says is nothing short of a national disgrace
It sounds like a 1970s Les Dawson joke.
What do you do with 200,000 menopausal women deprived of their medication?
Headlines have been full this week of a national shortage of HRT (hormone replacement therapy). It's reported that half of HRT products are out of stock - and experts fear alternatives could run out.
It's no laughing matter.
Essential medication to ease hellish symptoms is unavailable. And we're four months away from Brexit and its warned medication shortages.
More than 2.5million prescriptions are issued for HRT every year, in tablet, patch and gel form.
There are 3.4million women between 50 and 64 in the UK and most of these will have symptoms of the menopause. One million women in the UK use treatment to help, with HRT the main NHS treatment. Six out of 21 types of HRT are out of stock.
It is no joke. HRT is not a 'nice to have' for women - it's a vital support to get through life.
The symptoms are not about feeling a little 'off.' They can combine to feel like body has been taken over by an alien.
Women can suffer up to 12 "dripping hot flushes" a day, poor sleep, crippling headaches, dizziness, fatigue and irritability, reduced concentration, gastrointestinal problems, hair loss, depression and anxiety, aches and pains, a decrease in confidence, brain fog... the list goes on.
Hot flushes aren't about feeling a bit warm. They feel like an internal central heating system is turned up to full in an instant.
Dealing with The Change without HRT can change everything. Marriages have ended, families estranged, women lost their jobs and friendships seriously tested.
Will this HRT shortage finally make the menopause taken as seriously (by men) as any other health condition, now the life-changing issues women suffer are being spoken about openly and making headlines?
Meanwhile, women are having to take what HRT brands they can get, some of which are making their original symptoms worse.
Almost all women on HRT are likely to be affected by the shortage in some way.
Some 70pc of women in the 50-to-64 age group affected are still in work. You get my drift. A large section of the population is living in misery and it will have a wider impact than a few women feeling under par on their sofas.
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It's incredible that supplies could have dried up without anyone knowing why - manufacturing problems, ingredient shortages, discontinued brands have all been offered as excuses.
You have to wonder; would this have happened if there was a looming shortage of medication purely for males? Go figure.
The national shortage is also threatening the availability of alternative brands, so the situation will only get worse.
New stocks could arrive as late as next year, women say pharmacists have told them.
Just as the menopause starts to lose its taboo and people start talking openly about it, a solution becomes scarce. Perhaps that's it, more women are seeing help so there's more pressure on the manufacturers.
Or perhaps it is the Brexit effect and people are stockpiling.
This week, it was revealed that households have already spent £4billion on stockpiling goods for a no-deal Brexit. One in five of us is hoarding food, drinks and medicine, according to Premium Credit.
About 800,000 people have spent more than £1,000 on stockpiling with 50pc of those stocking up on medicine for themselves and 43pc have bought extra medicine for other family members.
Meanwhile, women who rely on it to live a normal life they, and their families, can enjoy and make their contribution to the economy and society are suffering.
With a rising working age, employers need to take menopause seriously and take off their blinkers.
HRT replaces oestrogen that the body stops producing during menopause.
I count my blessings every day that I was one of the few lucky ones. I had a year of aches and pains, hot flushes, anxiety, headaches and feeling generally ropey, - but it hit at the same time as I was undergoing cancer treatment, so all the symptoms merged into one. I didn't know what was causing what.
Some women mourn the loss of their fertility - although I skipped for joy at never having to worry again - and, when it was all over, I felt liberated, with renewed energy and better than I did in my thirties.
I know how lucky I am when I see other people suffering.
It's time the menopause was understood in the workplace. Some women's can last four and eight years, with the average age of starting is 51. Given the ageing workforce, understanding and supporting women through this stage of their lives has now become a priority for employers.
It happens to every woman so it shouldn't be a mystery or whispered about in corners. It affects every woman in a different way, but every woman understands what it's all about.
Men need to too - and younger women.
It's headline news, so should be at the top of every business' agenda this week because, odds are, that most workforces have women affected.
Ask the question and give the support.