How the ‘Davina effect’ has sent HRT demand soaring


An extra half-a-million menopausal women received hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in England last year, official figures show.

Nearly 2million women struggling with hot flushes, night sweats and mood swings were prescribed the menopause-busting drugs in 2021/22.

The figure is up by nearly a third on one year earlier.

Meanwhile, nearly 8million items of HRT were dished out, up 35 per cent year-on-year.

The surge follows the pioneering menopause documentary by TV presenter Davina McCall, broadcast in May 2021, which has helped women and GPs become more aware of the excruciating and wide-ranging symptoms of the menopause.

In the programme, the now-54-year-old spoke of her struggles with the crippling symptoms in her forties.

The ex-Big Brother host was lauded for shining a light on a formerly taboo topic. She described the reaction — which saw GPs ‘inundated’ with new requests for prescriptions — as being ‘like a Tsunami’.

The ‘Davina effect’, as it has been dubbed, has also been attributed to shortages of HRT, which come as tablets, skin patches and gels.

A lack of supply saw desperate women ration their prescription, swap drugs in car parks, turn to the black market and even look abroad.

Nearly 2million women struggling with hot flushes, night sweats and mood swings were prescribed hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in the year to March 2022 (black line). The figure is up by nearly a third on one year earlier, when 1.5million women were prescribed tablets, skin patches and gels to manage menopause symptoms. Meanwhile, nearly 8million items of HRT were dished out (blue line), up 35 per cent year-on-year

The surge came after a menopause documentary by Davina McCall (pictured speaking to protesters outside the Houses of Parliament in London in October 2021), 54, was broadcast in May 2021. She spoke of struggling with hot flushes from the age of 44. Pharmaceutical companies reported a spike in demand for HRT products following the release

The surge came after a menopause documentary by Davina McCall (pictured speaking to protesters outside the Houses of Parliament in London in October 2021), 54, was broadcast in May 2021. She spoke of struggling with hot flushes from the age of 44. Pharmaceutical companies reported a spike in demand for HRT products following the release

The graph shows the number of HRT prescriptions per month (blue line) and the number of patients receiving them between July 2020 and June 2022. Some 870,000 HRT products were prescribed in June 2022. This was an increase of 270,000 (45.1 per cent) from 600,000 items in June 2021

The graph shows the number of HRT prescriptions per month (blue line) and the number of patients receiving them between July 2020 and June 2022. Some 870,000 HRT products were prescribed in June 2022. This was an increase of 270,000 (45.1 per cent) from 600,000 items in June 2021

The graph shows the number of patients who received HRT prescriptions by age. The most common group to receive prescribing for HRT in 2021/22 was patients aged 50 to 54 with an estimated 437,000 identified patients, 22.7 per cent of all patients

The graph shows the number of patients who received HRT prescriptions by age. The most common group to receive prescribing for HRT in 2021/22 was patients aged 50 to 54 with an estimated 437,000 identified patients, 22.7 per cent of all patients

The data also shows that that well-off women were more likely to seek treatment for menopause symptoms. Half as many prescriptions issued in the poorest parts of the country, compared to the richest

The data also shows that that well-off women were more likely to seek treatment for menopause symptoms. Half as many prescriptions issued in the poorest parts of the country, compared to the richest

The statistics do not include HRT bought by women privately. Last month, Boots became the first pharmacy to offer oestrogen treatment Gina 10 microgram vaginal tablets (pictured) without a prescription. Other chains also now stock the pills. The move was hailed a landmark moment for women's health

The statistics do not include HRT bought by women privately. Last month, Boots became the first pharmacy to offer oestrogen treatment Gina 10 microgram vaginal tablets (pictured) without a prescription. Other chains also now stock the pills. The move was hailed a landmark moment for women’s health

The menopause is when a woman’s periods stop. It usually between the ages of 45 and 55. 

It is a normal part of ageing and caused by levels of the sex hormone oestrogen dropping.

HRT replaces the hormones and is the main treatment used to treat symptoms — which can be severe and disrupt day-to-day life.

These include mental health problems, such as anxiety, mood swings and brain fog, which can last for months or years and might change over time.

The menopause can also cause physical symptoms, including hot flushes, sleeping difficulties, heart palpitations, headaches, muscle pains and vaginal dryness.

The latest HRT prescription data, published by the NHS Business Services Authority, shows 1.93m patients received the drugs in the year to March 2022.

The figure is up 30.5 per cent from 1.48m in the 12 months to March 2021, during the first year of the pandemic.

An average of 1.5m people were prescribed HRT annually in the five years before the Covid crisis took hold. 

Meanwhile, 7.8million items of HRT were prescribed by medics in the year to March 2022, up 35 per cent compared to 5.8million one year earlier.

Estradiol — a drug that comes in oral and vaginal tablets and replenishes levels of the hormone oestrogen — saw the biggest surge in demand. An extra 220,000 patients received the treatment in the year to March 2022.

The statistics do not include HRT bought by women privately.

Last month, Boots became the first pharmacy to offer oestrogen treatment Gina 10 microgram vaginal tablets without a prescription. 

Other chains also now stock the pills. The move was hailed a landmark moment for women’s health.

The medication, which costs roughly £1.25 per tablet, only treats certain side effects of the menopause.

The pills are placed directly into the vagina, where a low dose of oestrogen seeps out. 

This helps to relieve vaginal dryness, soreness, itching and burning, factors that can cripple the sex lives of women going through ‘the change’.

It comes after McCall’s May 2021 documentary, aired by Channel 4, revealed that nine in 10 women felt the menopause had a negative impact on their life but only one in 10 were taking HRT.

One pharmaceutical company reported that demand for their HRT products soared 30 per cent in the month after the programme aired.

Industry sources earlier this year said the shortages were down to increased demand but ministers also blamed Covid-related global supply issues.

The shortages saw the Department of Health order pharmacies to only give women up to three months’ supply and recommend dishing out alternative HRT products if a preferred medication wasn’t available.

There are more than 70 types of HRT dished out in the UK and most are now in good supply. 

WHAT IS THE MENOPAUSE? 

Menopause is when a woman stops having periods naturally and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally.

It is a normal part of ageing and usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55 when a woman’s levels of the sex hormone oestrogen drop. 

Eight in 10 women will experience menopausal symptoms including hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, difficulty sleeping, low mood or anxiety and problems with memory.

Women are advised to see their GP if their symptoms are difficult to manage.

Treatments doctors can provide include hormone replacement therapy, such as tablets, skin patches and gels that replace oestrogen. 

Source: NHS

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