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The last taboo: menopause and the oestrogen patch shortage

By Evelyn Tsitas - posted Thursday, 28 September 2017


"If it was Viagra and no one could get it, there would be an outcry!" My friend crossed her arms and turned to me with both anger and despair. She is one of the estimated 60,000 Australian women currently affected by the oestrogen patch shortage used to treat menopause symptoms that has been plaguing women for nearly six months.

Imagine if men couldn't get their hands on Viagra for that long.

Earlier this year the Health Department confirmed a shortage in the Estradot oestrogen patch, along with Estalis, which combines progesterone.

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Endocrinologist Dr Roisin Worsley said the shortage wasn't being taken seriously by authorities and that this was because it's a female issue.

The manufacturer Novartis advised in April that they were working to 'resolve fluctuations in supply' and estimated this would be resolved by mid 2017.

Yet the shortage of the commonly used transdermal patches continues, forcing women to seek alternative forms of HRT which can have increased side effects.

The Health Department has updated its advice that the transdermal patch shortage will continue until November 2017.

This means that if the shortage does indeed end before the year does, women will have been without adequate and consistent supply of the drugs for 12 months.

Imagine if Viagra manufacturing was disrupted for an entire year.

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The critically acclaimed TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood's 1980s dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale depicts a chilling world where women are reduced to their basic biology as childbearing machines. Women's reproductive rights are denied in the face of a 'greater good' – a widespread decline in female fertility which results in fertile women being hunted down, captured, traded and forced to bear children for the elite via sanctioned imprisonment and rape. Women's wombs and fertility are seen as such a socially and economically valuable commodity that these actions are justified and enshrined in law.

"We let them [women] forget their real purpose," is a chilling quote from TV series, and one that resonates with many women who fear the draconian rules and backlash under the Trump administration when it comes to women's rights. Kaylie Hanson Long, the national communications director for NARAL Pro-Choice America, says President Trumphas laid bare the real motive behind the war on reproductive rights waged by antichoice politicians and extremist groups. 'It has very little to do with abortion and everything to do with keeping women in our place by limiting our options and freedom.'

There is more truth to Atwood's fiction than we care to admit. Let us explore the many ways that women's wombs are contested spaces both during the reproductive years and beyond.

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About the Author

Dr Evelyn Tsitas works at RMIT University and has an extensive background in journalism (10 years at the Herald Sun) and communications. As well as crime fiction and horror, she writes about media, popular culture, parenting and Gothic horror and the arts and society in general. She likes to take her academic research to the mass media and to provoke debate.

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