Women going through menopause are forced to buy HRT on the black market amid NHS scarcity.
An investigation found some women are being charged up to £50 for a bottle of pills online or buying and selling prescriptions with others on Facebook.
Advocacy groups say desperate women have even begun bartering with pharmacies and private clinics for leftovers.
Menopausal women get free hormone replacement therapy on the NHS, with a prescription fee of £9.35 in the UK.
But the number of monthly HRT prescriptions has more than doubled in the past five years, with half a million prescriptions now being prescribed each month, The Telegraph reports.
Soaring demand has outstripped supply, causing shortages of some of the most common forms of therapy.
Experts say rising awareness and diminishing stigma about menopause mean more women are coming for treatment.
An investigation has found that women going through menopause are forced to buy HRT on the black market amid shortages on the NHS (stocks)
Each year, about 1.5 million women experience symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats, and sleep disturbances.
Symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, ‘brain fog’ and memory problems affecting all areas of their lives.
WHAT IS MENOPAUSE?
Menopause is when a woman stops menstruating naturally and is no longer able to become pregnant naturally.
This is a normal part of the aging process and usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 when a woman’s levels of the sex hormone estrogen drop.
Eight out of 10 women experience menopausal symptoms including hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, trouble sleeping, low mood or anxiety, and memory problems.
Women should see their GP if their symptoms are difficult to control.
Treatments your doctor may offer include hormone replacement therapy, such as pills, skin patches, and estrogen replacement gels.
HRT supplies the body with the estrogen it stops producing during menopause.
It’s usually prescribed as a patch, pill or gel – but only a small fraction of women with symptoms get treatment.
Supply chain problems and shortages of key ingredients have resulted in returning patients struggling to get access, a problem made worse during the pandemic.
Some GPs are unaware of the shortage – that is, they keep prescribing HRT, only sending patients to their pharmacy and being told it’s out of stock.
Women are switching their HRT medication, which sometimes causes symptoms to return as the body gets used to the new drug.
Among those struggling to get HRT on the NHS was 48-year-old Fleur Maslin-Miller, who ended up paying for Oestrogel separately.
She told The Telegraph: ‘I had a hysterectomy last November, and went straight into catastrophic menopause; suffering from joint pain, insomnia, night sweats and anxiety.
When her pharmacy ran out of stock and told her they didn’t know when they would have their next refill, she turned to the black market, paying triple the NHS prescription fee.
‘Without it is completely unthinkable. I’m lucky in that I can afford it, but there are thousands of women in absolute hell.
‘On the Facebook group I’m in it’s ridiculous – women are bartering and exchanging bottles.’
Millie Kendall, chief executive of the British Beauty Council, also became desperate when her pharmacy ran out of stock.
‘When one of the girls in my office said her mom had some spare stuff, I said I would be happy to pay her £50 for it,’ she said.
Without medication, Kendall had trouble sleeping and was always anxious.
The Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘We are aware of supply issues that have affected hormone replacement therapy products in recent years, however most have remained unaffected and Alternatives available for a limited number of products have been affected by supply issues’ .
Menopause occurs when a woman stops menstruating, meaning she is no longer able to conceive naturally.
This process – triggered by the ovaries producing less estrogen – is a natural part of the aging process and usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55.
HRT is one way of treating symptoms. It restores female hormone levels, bringing relief to hundreds of thousands of women every year.
Doctors warn some types of HRT can increase breast cancer risk, but insist that the benefits outweigh the risks.
WHAT IS HRT AND WHY IS SHORT TERM?
What is HRT?
Hormone replacement therapy is used to relieve the symptoms of menopause by replacing hormones when the body stops producing them.
It can be taken as a tablet, skin patch, gel, and cream.
Why is there a shortage?
The crisis is being caused by a ‘perfect storm’ of various factors. Demand has increased as more and more women are prescribed the drug as safety concerns over side effects have subsided.
Second, the major suppliers have encountered production problems.
Shortages of these drugs have led to an increase in demand for alternative medicines, some of which are now out of stock because there is not enough production to meet the increased demand.
What is not available?
More than a dozen commonly prescribed HRT drugs are out of stock or in short supply. These include most Elleste tablets, FemSeven Sequi & Conti patches, Evorel 50 patches, Estradot patches, and Cyclo-Progynova tablets.
Are there alternatives?
GPs can switch patients to different medications by trying to combine the estrogen and progesterone component of the drug that isn’t available with an alternative brand. However, some HRT drugs do not have a direct alternative.
This includes combined estrogen and progesterone patches, such as FemSeven Conti and Sequi.
Women who are already on the combination patch may now have to switch to an estrogen-only patch and take a progesterone pill.
Source: | This article originally belonged to Dailymail.co.uk