DESPERATE women hit by the HRT crisis in the UK are paying up to nine times the odds – and even trafficking drugs in car parks, The Sun can reveal.
A “black market” is forming as more than a million women struggle to cope with shortages that experts warn could last well into the summer.
Some are driven to the brink of suicide, while others give up their jobs as the debilitating symptoms return.
Claire Hattrick – who runs menopause support group clipboardclaire.com – said women have bought HRT on social forums or even met up with strangers to trade medicines.
She said: “This is a huge problem and it’s only getting worse.
“Women meet to trade parking spaces and say, ‘I’ll give you a pump of this if you give me some patches.’
“It shouldn’t be like that. It ruins lives.”
Diane Danzebrink – founder of Menopause Support and the Make Menopause Matter campaign – added: “The fear this is causing is tremendous.
“I’ve heard of women going to 30 pharmacies to try and get a prescription. Some women exchange ideas with girlfriends.
“Others resort to purchasing from online pharmacies, where they are charged extortionate amounts.”
Many women who suffered from brain fog, anxiety and hot flashes before treatment feared returning to a world they hoped they had left behind.
Labor MP Carolyn Harris told The Sun: “Imagine it has taken you a long time to actually recognize that you are menopausal and then you actually manage to persuade a doctor to put you on HRT.
Then you get HRT, you feel normal again, and then that was taken away from you.
“No wonder women drive up freeways to meet women in parking lots to borrow or buy HRT from them.
“It’s not a life choice for these women. It is important.”
She said campaigns like Menopause Matters, launched by The Sun’s Fabulous magazine, have helped empower women, but the government has failed to plan ahead.
She added: “This shortage is unmatched anywhere else in the world. That only exists in this country.”
Some women are considering drug shipments to countries like Spain, while others report experiencing “cold turkey”.
Despite stern warnings from doctors, many would rather risk potentially serious side effects of common HRT — including headaches and nausea — than face the worrisome alternatives.
The crisis comes as demand for HRT has doubled in recent years to more than 500,000 prescriptions a month – while manufacturers have been unable to keep up.
Stocks of estrogel, which 30,000 women rely on, are nearing depletion and health chiefs are considering rationing alternatives.
Debi Wallbank, 48, said: “If I had to travel to Spain or France to get HRT, I would.
“I would consider anything. If I had the opportunity to borrow something from a stranger since I couldn’t get my own, I would.
“I really feel for every woman going through this right now. It breaks my heart.”
Online business mentor Debi, from Much Wenlock, Shropshire, was hit by a previous shortage in 2020.
She added: “In six months without HRT, I wasn’t doing very well and I was happy, I wanted to die.
“I never want to go back to that dark place.”
Kindergarten teacher Liz Swarf, 51, trades and shares estrogen patches on the “black market” and said she couldn’t do her job without them.
She continued: “I sent some to a friend in London who was struggling. I borrowed some from a lady who lives across the street.
“We sell ourselves a bit under the dose we need to try to make them last longer.”
Aldi employee Rachel Turner, 39, from Didcot, Oxfordshire, went through early menopause after having children aged three, seven and nine.
She paid £108.10 for an NHS prepayment certificate to cover all her prescriptions for a year.
But she felt she had no choice but to pay another £75 online for a month’s supply of gel.
She said: “I can’t afford to pay this every month. I still have enough for two weeks. I don’t know what I’ll do after that.”
questions and answers
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?
THE UK is facing an acute shortage of some HRT products, mainly gels and some patches.
WHAT CAUSED IT?
CELEBRITY activist Davina McCall and MP Carolyn Harris say this is due to a lack of government planning – and manufacturers failing to anticipate a foreseeable shortage.
HOW MANY WOMEN ARE AFFECTED?
Tens of thousands. In fact, 30,000 alone rely on Estrogel – manufactured by Besins Healthcare UK – which is nearly used up, leading to a rush to other products.
WHAT IF I DON’T GET MY HRT?
Talk to your GP, who will prescribe you an alternative, but talk to your pharmacist first and get a list of what’s in stock.
SHOULD I RATIO MY HRT?
No, as the symptoms can return.
SHARE WITH PALS?
No, as some forms of HRT are not suitable for everyone and may be dangerous for some women.
https://www.the-sun.com/news/5233514/women-hrt-crisis-trade-drugs/ Women are forced to pay up to nine times the odds for HRT and deal drugs in shady parking lots