The ongoing shortages in hormone replacement therapies (HRT) are causing extreme stress and anxiety for women.
Ireland is one of several countries facing shortages in the therapies, which drug companies have put down to an “unprecedented” surge in demand in recent years.
Two of the more popular HRT medications Evorel and Estradot have faced ongoing shortages in the past two years and, while Evorel is currently available in Ireland, Estradot is not expected to be fully available until July.
Meanwhile, two HRT gel products Oestragel and Divigel have also faced intermittent supply problems this year.
On The Hard Shoulder this evening, Dr Catherine Riordan from the Menopause Hub said every time there is a shortage of one treatment, it causes a “domino effect” that affects all the others.
“At the moment, we don’t know when we prescribe HRT what patients are going to be able to get and it could be up to maybe mid-July before things are back on-stream,” she said.
“We just don’t know from one day to the next what is going to happen and it is hugely frustrating from a doctor’s point of view.
“We see a patient, we tell them what we recommend for them, we explain how to use it, we prescribe it and the next thing they are back to say they can’t get it and the chemist wonders if they can be prescribed something different.”
She said changing from one treatment to another can be very distressing for women.
“You have women who have really spent a long time finding the one that works for them because although in theory they are all the same, in practice some people absorb some better than others and they work better,” she said.
“You might have just got the dose right and have women who are saying I’ve finally got my old self back and I can function now and then you tell them, oh sorry you can’t have that anymore. It is short supply.
“It’s just so unfair when you think every woman is going to go through menopause eventually.”
HRT is prescribed to women going through a wide range of symptoms limed to menopause and perimenopause.
Dr Riordan said many of the symptoms can life-altering for women.
“I think, unless you have been through significant symptoms of menopause you probably don’t realise how bad it is,” she said. “But 30% of women actually think about giving up or pulling back from work because of it and 10% of women give up their work because they are so debilitated.
“So, telling them they can’t have the one thing that gets them back up and running again just seems nuts. It is so unfair.”
Also on the show, Carol Ann Clarke, who has seen her treatment impacted by the supply issue said she has recently been offered HRT on the black market.
“Scarily, a few weeks ago, I was approached to say that I could access it on the black market online,” she said.
“I said absolutely not. I am not going to cede something that could be potentially damaging for women. I want to go through people I trust and understand my symptoms and how to adapt to my symptoms if I move to perimenopause into menopause.
“If we go down that road, we are seriously in trouble.”
Manufacturers are blaming a surge in demand for HRT in recent years for the supply issues.
They are warning that the shortages are likely to continue until at least July.
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