The UK’s shortage of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is leaving women suicidal, the chair of the parliamentary group that specialises in menopause has warned.
Labour MP Carolyn Harris said the HRT shortage has been caused by the government’s failure to predict and respond to surging demand triggered by increased awareness about the menopause.
Women have been left “exhausted, frustrated, confused and frightened,” Harris told the Independent by the nationwide shortage of HRT which has exacerbated since 2019 due to manufacturing and supply chain issues.
“It is scary,” said Harris. “Women who can’t get HRT will be making really bad decisions because of brain fog. They will be giving up work, and there will be relationships ending, and women even contemplating suicide.
“They don’t understand what is going on in their body and can’t get the medication to stop it from happening.”
Javid to appoint HRT tsar
Health secretary Sajid Javid announced on Sunday (April 24) that he intends to appoint a HRT tsar to address the problem. Javid told the Mail on Sunday he is “determined” to ensure supplies meet the high demand and would use lessons learned from the Covid vaccine roll-out.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Harris said she welcomed Javid’s intervention but insisted he should tackle the severe shortage rather than appoint a tsar.
“I welcome the fact that the Secretary of State is doing something about this, because somebody needed to, because up until now they’ve not bothered. But it doesn’t really need a tsar, if I’m honest.
“He could do this, he could decide to loosen the regulations on the formularies and make this product available across the country.
“It could happen very, very quickly. My concern is [to make sure] that it’s not being kicked into the long grass, but I won’t let that happen.”
Women forced to barter and turn to black market for HRT
The Telegraph reported in March that menopausal women are “being forced to turn to a black market” for HRT after prescriptions in England more than doubled from 238,000 per month in 2017 to over 500,000 per month this year.
The manufacturer of a widely used hormone replacement gel has reported supply problems and Javid said he “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.”
Some women have reported resorting to “bartering and swapping bottles” of HRT on social media, with others left offering £50 for a single bottle.
There are 3.4 million aged between 50 and 64 in the UK – the majority of whom will be experiencing menopausal symptoms ranging from hot flushes, palpitations, vaginal pain and mood changes.
HRT prescriptions are currently free in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but not in England.
Diane Danezbrink, who runs the Menopause Support network, said: “The shortage places some women at risk of becoming potentially suicidal.
“The biggest risk of suicide for women is between the ages of 50 and 54. The average age of menopause is 51. That is not a coincidence. My menopause made me suicidal – I got very close to putting my car in front of a lorry.”