TV presenter Davina McCall has said the severe shortage of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in the UK is “ridiculous” and needs to be addressed immediately.
McCall, who actively campaigns to raise awareness about menopause, wondered why it took the government and HRT providers “so long to fix” the problem.
It comes after tens of thousands of women across the country said they were unable to get estrogen gel and other HRT products that were prescribed to them.
Earlier this week, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) found that two-thirds of the 5,000 local representatives surveyed face daily shortages.
McCall told the BBC Sunday morning program that when she was going through perimenopause – a transition period before menopause – she “was a mush”.
“When someone asked me if I was okay because I had missed a TV show, I said yes. And then when she closed the door and left, I burst into tears,” she said.
“Because I thought, ‘I’m not well, I think I have a brain tumour, or I have Alzheimer’s or something – help me.’
Menopause is a natural process that occurs when a woman’s estrogen levels decline between the ages of 45 and 55. However, it can start before the age of 40, which is called premature menopause or premature ovarian failure.
The drop in estrogen can lead to sometimes debilitating symptoms that can have a significant impact on a woman’s daily activities.
Common symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, insomnia, low mood or anxiety, and decreased libido.
McCall made a documentary titled Davina McCall: Sex, myths and menopause which aired last year.
Her activism, along with campaigns such as the Menopause Workplace Pledge, which encouraged employers to provide more support to employees going through menopause, led to increased awareness of the condition and the benefits of HRT.
But providers were unprepared for the increased demand for HRT, which some have dubbed the “Davina effect.” Supply chain disruptions have also led to the current shortage.
McCall said: “I get really annoyed when people say, ‘Well, it’s Davina’s fault.’ You know what, we’re actually trying to help women sort out their hormones and live normal lives. and healthy.
“There were shortages long before this documentary came out last year. Apparently there is a hormone surplus in Europe. Why is it taking so long to fix this?
“It’s a medicine. If there was a shortage of insulin or some other medication that women or men needed to take, that would be taken care of immediately.
She continued: “It can be life threatening not to receive HRT for women. But yes, I want more women on HRT because it would benefit the NHS enormously. It needs to be sorted. It’s ridiculous.”
Last week, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he would appoint an HRT czar to tackle the shortage.
He added: “I want to reassure women that I have listened to their concerns and will not hesitate to take decisive action to ensure they can access the HRT they need.
“We will leave no stone unturned in our national mission to increase the supply of HRT – and this next step will ensure that women across the UK can reliably access this life-saving medicine and maintain this lifeline for millions of people who need it.”