Shortage of hormone replacement therapy Estradot causing anxiety for Kiwis who rely on it daily

A shortage of hormone replacement therapy Estradot is causing frustration and anxiety among thousands of Kiwis who rely on it daily.

Doctors said the shortage is now the worst it's been since it began in 2020 and they're worried about the risk of substitutes. 

Menopause is tough enough, but when you can't get your usual medication it's even worse.

"Just a lot of anxiety around, 'Can I get what I need'," Niki Bezzant, menopause expert and author, told Newshub.

"Women have talked to me about ringing around pharmacies like drug addicts trying to get the patches."

This particular brand of estrogen patches, called Estradot, is considered the gold standard of hormone replacement therapy. About 2.3 million patches were prescribed to Kiwis last year.

"Day after day in my practice I see women who really rely on this medication," said Dr Megan Ogilvie, an endocrinologist at Fertility Associates.

However, since 2020 there's been an ongoing shortage of it because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a huge rise in demand. This means patients have to use a different brand.

"It's quite irritating to the skin, or sometimes they don't stick on at all, so it's hard to get the medicine you need," Bezzant said.

It's a problem Dr Ogilvie doesn't see easing because she believes the Estradot shortage is peaking.

"This does seem to be the worst it's been," she said.

Dr Linda Dear from MenoDoctor said there are some pharmacies in parts of New Zealand that "literally can't get their hands on any brand or any dose".

As a result, doctors are forced to prescribe alternatives such as estrogen pills.

"For women who have a concerning history in terms of previous clot or migraine, those women are at higher risk on oral tablet than with a patch," Dr Ogilvie said.

Doctors and patients want Pharmac to fund more estrogen options, like gels which are widely used overseas.

"They have all the same safety of patches and are just as effective. A lot of women actually prefer them," Dr Dear said.

They're also calling on Pharmac to fund more than two patches a week for each patient and to extend the life of a prescription to allow for Estradot delays.

"I think Pharmac could be doing more," Dr Ogilvie said.

Pharmac wasn't available for an interview with Newshub, but said in a statement that it's taking every measure possible to ensure people have access to treatment. They added the manufacturer of Estradot is working hard to improve supplies. 

"It's really frustrating. I find it hard to believe that this couldn't have been anticipated," Bezzant said.

A frustration for thousands of Kiwis.