Surge in demand for HRT ‘inevitable’ after Davina McCall documentary

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Davina McCall: Sex, Mind and the Menopause has hit screens once again and as a result a surge in demand for the already overstretched HRT is expected. The first documentary aired in May last year and the demand for HRT increased overnight.

Figures from Open Prescribing show that there were 382,632 prescriptions for female sex hormones and their modulators issued in England that month, however prescriptions then increased by 13% in June, to 432,826. These prescriptions include HRT and a range of other hormone treatments.

Wales Online reported that demand continued to rise in the months following the documentary, peaking at 537,986 prescriptions in December that is a 41% increase on the monthly count of prescriptions before the original documentary was shown. Now, after Davina’s follow-up documentary called Davina McCall: Sex, Mind and the Menopause aired on Monday, campaigners are expecting a new surge in demand for supplies, as many women are expected to seek HRT from their GPs for the first time.

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However currently in the UK there is a shortage of the pill. That has been classed as a “national disgrace”.

HRT provides relief from the symptoms of the menopause including hot flashes, night sweats, low mood and anxiety. But national shortages have meant many women have been able to get hold of HRT treatments and the government has now appointed Madelaine McTernan as its new “HRT Tsar” in an attempt to address this.

Labor MP Carolyn Harris – chair of the menopause all-party parliamentary group, co-chair of the menopause taskforce and co-founder of campaign group Menopause Mandate – called the shortages “a national disgrace”. She said: “Prescriptions for HRT have more than doubled in the last five years. If you look at the charts showing NHS prescribing, the steeply climbing lines show a constant increase in demand for some products. There have been on/off shortages for the last three years.

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“HRT isn’t a lifestyle drug. It’s a solution for the often debilitating symptoms which can accompany menopause; hot flushes, anxiety, depression, insomnia, aching joints, brain fog, palpitations and many more. For the one in 100 women who go through early menopause, it’s a medical necessity. We are already at crisis point. Women are so desperate that they are bartering on social media and driving miles to get it as well as eking out their bottles; halving their dose and cutting them open to get the last vestiges.

“It’s inevitable that demand will arise again following Davina McCall’s excellent programme. Her work by Ella has brilliantly helped to debunk the toxic myths surrounding HRT, which women ought to be able to access should they choose.



Davina has said she will not feel bad for raising awareness
Davina has said she will not feel bad for raising awareness

Addressing the likely surge in demand – and accusations that her documentaries have fueled shortages – Ms McCall told Sophie Raworth on BBC’s Sunday Morning Live: “I’m not going to feel bad about that, I get really kind of annoyed when people are like it’s Davina’s fault. We are actually trying to help women sort out their hormones and live a normal healthy life. There were shortages way before that shortage came out last year.

“Apparently there’s a surplus of hormones in Europe. Why is it taking this long to sort out? HRT is a medicine, if there was a shortage in insulin or another medicine women had to take or men, that would get sorted out immediately.”

Ms McCall’s latest documentary presented findings from a representative survey of 4,014 UK women aged 45-55 who are currently or have previously experienced the perimenopause or the menopause. The research was supported by the Fawcett Society, which has produced a report called Menopause And The Workplace.

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The research found that 10% of menopausal women who are or have been employed during the menopause have left their job due to their symptoms. It said that, mapped on to the total UK population of five million women aged 45-55, that would represent 333,000 women leaving their jobs due to the menopause.



Demand is expected to increase
Demand is expected to increase

Meanwhile, 45% of women surveyed said they had not talked to someone at their GP practice about menopause, and even among women with five or more severe symptoms, 29% had not talked to their GP or a nurse. Some 31% of women surveyed agreed that it took many appointments for their GP to realize they were experiencing the menopause or perimenopause, rising to 45% among women of color and 42% among women with five or more severe symptoms.

Fawcett Society chief executive Jemima Olchawski said: “Menopausal women are experiencing unnecessary misery and it’s a national scandal. Too often menopause symptoms have been dismissed as a joke and HRT has been labeled a lifestyle drug.

“But with 44% of women facing three or more severe symptoms, our research helps to dispel that nonsense. The Government needs to make urgent changes, from requiring employers to have menopause action plans, to creating a route into menopause healthcare, to ensure that GPs are adequately trained to spot menopause symptoms.

“For too long, menopause has been shrouded in stigma, we need to break the culture of silence and ensure menopausal women are treated with the dignity and support they deserve instead of being expected to just get on with it.”

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A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “The Health Secretary has been clear he will leave no stone unturned to ensure women can get the HRT they need. We have taken decisive action to boost supply – including appointing Madelaine McTernan as Head of the HRT taskforce to address supply issues and issuing serious shortage protocols to even out distribution of certain in-demand products – as well as working to reduce the cost of HRT.

“Any woman who is worried about access to HRT should speak to her GP.”



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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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