'It's tragic': Women describe 'sheer panic' as HRT supplies run out

  • Video report by ITV Correspondent Rachel Younger

Women have described the impact a shortage of stocks of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) could have on them as it is revealed half of the most commonly prescribed forms of the drug are out of stock in many pharmacies.

Around two and a half million prescriptions for HRT are issued in England every year to combat the symptoms of the menopause, but according to the British Menopause Society, stocks are running low, leaving many women without treatment.

The charity has warned supplies could run out in weeks, a prospect that women at a menopause support group in London told ITV News was "terrifying".

Johanne Harris told ITV News: 'Situations that you shouldn't find emotional at all make you cry.' Credit: ITV News

Judit Seymour - who's resorted to paying privately for HRT - depends on a brand of patches now in short supply. She describes the "sheer panic" she felt after once running out of patches and says she is afraid she would not be able to cope if the symptoms of the menopause returned.

"I think it's tragic, I think it's wrong because I don't want to live through all that again.

"I'll buy it from abroad. I'll go to Canada. I have relatives there. I'm going to have to think outside the box."

Two and a half million prescriptions for HRT are issued every year in England. Credit: ITV News

The reasons for the shortage are unclear, but the reality of living with the menopause is a not, impacting on everyday life in a way that can make even the smallest task a challenge.

"Getting ready to go to work takes longer. The hot sweats. I just find, even getting out of bed is more difficult, because you get the aches and pains. I wake up and I feel like a 90-year-old woman," Nicki Hussain told ITV News.

Another member of the menopausal support group described the emotional turmoil it brings: "Things annoy you,." Johanne Hudson said. "People annoy you. Situations that you shouldn't find emotional at all make you cry. And by the end of the day, you're absolutely exhausted."

'Leaving for work takes longer' says Nicki Hussain. Credit: ITV News

The manufacturers of Evorel patches have warned its supplies could run out in weeks while Myland HRT say some of its pills are in short supply.

"We have to have to have this medication available," Sara Coote told ITV News. "To be not able to get certain things, I'm absolutely speechless. There's just no words for this. I'm not sure who's responsible but this needs changing. Very quickly too."

The Department of Health says supplies of alternative HRT products are available, but, as one doctor told ITV News, that is of little help to already overstretched GPs who are already struggling to find enough time for appointments.

Judit Seymour and Sara Coote. Credit: ITV News

Dr Sara Kayat said: "It's a matter of finding the right type for you. There are some that are simple switches, but for a lot of them there aren't the exact switch. We have to go through a history, find out what would be appropriate for that woman."

The manufacturers say the supply issues with many HRT products are only temporary. But the uncertainty, and prospect of living without the medication they rely, will only further add to the stress of the menopause for millions of women already suffering.