Daily Express - - Front Page - By Frances Mil­lar

THOU­SANDS of women last night urged Boris John­son to end the Hor­mone Re­place­ment Ther­apy drugs short­age scan­dal. NHS man­ager Ch­eryl Young, right, led the call to end the mis­ery of

menopausal women scram­bling to ob­tain the med­i­ca­tion and patches, telling the Prime Min­is­ter: “Sort out this HRT drug mess, Boris!”

Mother-of-two Ch­eryl, 44, has en­dured har­row­ing health prob­lems for eight months and said: “Why is it a bat­tle for ev­ery sin­gle woman who needs this med­i­ca­tion?

“What other con­di­tion would you be ex­pected to drive hun­dreds of miles or fly abroad to get hold of your med­i­ca­tion?

“It’s be­cause peo­ple think it’s only HRT or its only the menopause. That’s the dif­fer­ence.”

HRT re­places the hor­mones women can no longer pro­duce be­cause of the menopause and helps with symp­toms such as hot flushes, night sweats, in­som­nia and er­ratic mood swings.

Around 360,000 HRT pre­scrip­tions are is­sued each month, but the root cause of the UK short­age is un­clear.

Patches and pills be­gan to run low late last year.

Ch­eryl had a hys­terec­tomy in Fe­bru­ary to com­bat de­bil­i­tat­ing en­dometrio­sis pains and went into sur­gi­cally-in­duced menopause.

But her gy­nae­col­o­gist gave no hint that she would strug­gle to get the HRT sup­port she needed to re­cover.

For three months, Ch­eryl, of Ket­ter­ing, Northants, picked up her Evorel Conti pre­scrip­tion at her chemist, but in May she was told there were no more combi patches avail­able in her area.

HRT is vi­tal for women who have sur­gi­cally-in­duced menopause to re­place the loss of oe­stro­gen, which puts them at a in­creased risk of os­teo­poro­sis and car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease.

“The gy­nae­col­o­gist was adamant that I would have to go on to HRT straight away, but there was no inkling that it was even an is­sue,” Ch­eryl said.

She was of­fered al­ter­na­tives but, re­luc­tant to change to a messy gel or tablets, de­cided to source the patches else­where.

Ket­ter­ing Gen­eral Hospi­tal found an on­line chemist to sup­ply them – at £25 a month.

Ch­eryl and hus­band Dave, 45, a net­work se­cu­rity man­ager, were able to pay for a pri­vate pre­scrip­tion, but thou­sands of women are not so lucky.

“It’s not fair some women can get it and oth­ers can’t be­cause they ei­ther can’t af­ford it or they can’t spend the time search­ing,” Ch­eryl said. “I’ve heard of women buy­ing it on­line and say­ing, ‘Happy Christ­mas to me’.

Ch­eryl’s symp­toms wors­ened in Oc­to­ber and her gy­nae­col­o­gist changed the pre­scrip­tion to oe­stro­gen-only patch Estradot.

But she has never been able to ob­tain the patch and has to set­tle for an al­ter­na­tive which leaves her skin red and itchy.

“There shouldn’t be a sup­ply and de­mand sce­nario,” she said. “The sup­ply should be there like ev­ery other drug for ev­ery other health con­di­tion. Women shouldn’t have to fight for it.”

The Bri­tish Menopause So­ci­ety’s web­site says Estradot, made by No­var­tis, is avail­able. But on­line phar­ma­cies say it is out of stock.

No­var­tis said: “There are global sup­ply short­ages of sev­eral generic and branded HRT prod­ucts, which is cre­at­ing in­creased de­mand for oth­ers, in­clud­ing Estradot.

“No­var­tis is sup­ply­ing as

much Estradot stock as pos­si­ble into our UK whole­salers, which is above the nor­mal ex­pected de­mand.”

Last month the Daily Ex­press re­vealed the Evorel Mono, Conti and Se­qui ranges from Ther­amex would not be avail­able un­til Fe­bru­ary. And My­lan, which pro­duces Elleste, an­tic­i­pates pro­duc­tion will re­sume “by the lat­ter sec­ond half of 2020”.

Pro­fes­sor Martin Mar­shall, of the Royal Col­lege of GPs, said: “The rea­sons for these short­ages are not clear and are likely multi-fac­to­rial, but they need to be sorted out as a mat­ter of ur­gency. They are caus­ing a great deal of un­cer­tainty, in­con­ve­nience and dis­tress for pa­tients.” The is­sue has been blamed partly on in­crease in de­mand for patches, rather than gels or tablets, and a re­sult of mul­ti­ple man­u­fac­tur­ers hav­ing prob­lems at the same time.

Re­cent re­ports sug­gest the is­sue may have arisen be­cause the Gov­ern­ment added a num­ber of HRT prod­ucts to a Cat­e­gory C drugs tar­iff – which de­ter­mines how much the NHS will pay phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal con­trac­tors – in June 2018.

Cat­e­gory C drugs are low-price branded medicines not as read­ily avail­able as generic medicines and the repric­ing is thought to have de­terred phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies from sell­ing to the UK.

But the De­part­ment of Health and So­cial Care said the tar­iff ad­di­tion was “com­pletely un­re­lated”. It added: “The prob­lems af­fect­ing some HRT prod­ucts are be­ing caused by man­u­fac­tur­ing, reg­u­la­tory and com­mer­cial is­sues out­side of our con­trol and are af­fect­ing global mar­kets.

“We un­der­stand how dis­tress­ing the HRT short­age is for women who need these medicines and want to re­as­sure them we are do­ing ev­ery­thing we can to en­sure they can ac­cess them as soon as pos­si­ble.”

Pic­tures: STEVE BELL

Cam­paign­ing NHS man­ager Ch­eryl Young: ‘Why is it a bat­tle for ev­ery sin­gle woman who needs this med­i­ca­tion?’ Inset, hard-to-find HRT drugs

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