In the lead-up to World Menopause Day on 18th October, a Leeds entrepreneur is using her personal experience and medical knowledge to help others by launching an online pharmacy dedicated to improving access and treatment options for women going through menopause.
A qualified prescribing pharmacist, 42-year-old Melissa Sookia knows all too well about the lack of support and affordable treatment available for women suffering from menopausal symptoms.
Menopause is typically experienced by women in their 40s and beyond and can greatly impact physical and mental health.
Open up conversations
Despite celebrities such as Davina McCall and Meg Mathews using their platforms to share their experiences to open up conversations and reduce the stigma surrounding it, there is still work to be done.
Speaking about the reasons for setting up LIVVE, Melissa said: ‘With 13,000,000 menopausal women in the UK, it’s time to cut through the deafening silence on this topic and get past the shame society has placed on it.”
‘I went through perimenopause when I was 40 and, after a few appointments with my GP, was left feeling underwhelmed and frustrated by the treatment options and advice I received. I became obsessed with enhancing my knowledge about the medical side of it because I knew that my situation wasn’t unique.’
Gap in the market
While offering a menopause service at her clinic and noticing the significant improvement in patient well-being, mood and sex drive within a matter of weeks, that single mother of two, Melissa saw a huge gap in the market.
She soon realised pharmacists are an untapped resource who can alleviate pressure on the NHS. Melissa continued: ‘There was so much more I could offer with the knowledge I had about menopause and my role as a prescribing Pharmacist that no one else was doing.’
Within a few months, she completed her training with the Marion Gluck Academy and became a member of The British Menopause Society.
Melissa also worked closely with Gen M, a game-changing brand that provides research, knowledge, and experience to help brands better understand key topics surrounding menopause.
They are also experts in offering support to anyone experiencing said symptoms and signposting them to the right products and services.
One in five menopausal women won’t experience any symptoms; however, one in four will experience debilitating symptoms, sometimes leading to quitting their job.
There are 48 symptoms that may be experienced by menopausal women. The key signs are hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and anxiety; however, lesser-known symptoms include a burning mouth, insomnia, hair loss, and adult acne.
LIVVE provides treatment for all 48 symptoms. Patients can access information and support to live empowered lives and gain confidence to talk openly about their feelings, especially with their partners and families.
Sam Simister, the co-founder of GenM, said: ‘We are delighted to have Livve join as a GenM partner and to welcome them into our collection of over 60 forward-thinking brands, all committed to making a change for the menopause. Half of the population will experience this transition, impacting everyone in society.’
‘We all have a role to play in improving things, including businesses like Livve. They are stepping up to cater to this audience by providing treatment for all 48 potential menopause symptoms and offering information and support to make the best of this life stage.’
‘You wouldn’t run a marathon in a pair of slippers or without proper training and understanding. We want to ensure women and others in menopause can enter the menopause marathon armed with the knowledge and support systems to survive and thrive.’
Sarah Blackwell, 43, an existing client of Melissa, reveals how the effects of menopause impacted her life and well-being: ‘After endless visits to my GP about the lack of energy, anxiety, and awful mood swings, I was prescribed anti-depressants. I was introduced to Melissa, who instantly recognised the signs of perimenopause, she took my blood, and within seven days, she told me I had both low testosterone and oestrogen levels.’
‘As a pharmacist, Melissa was instantly able to prescribe my HRT treatment, and within two months, I felt like a new person. The anxiety and brain fog had gone, my skin had lost its dryness, my energy levels went through the roof, and my sex drive had returned; it was like someone had turned a light bulb on.’
A personal and affordable approach
With the support of Gen M and her colleagues, Melissa set up LIVVE, which launches later this month.
The platform will launch later this month, providing consultation services and an online pharmacy all in one place. Users can also enjoy just one point of contact, enabling patients to receive a more tailored, personal approach to their menopause care and medication.
Ahead of the launch, Melissa said: ‘Pharmacists are a key part of the solution. They are experts in offering practical help and deciding which medicines to prescribe and dispense. The online nature of LIVVE enables us to offer a responsive and cost-effective service.’
‘I am beyond excited to be able to utilise my skills and experience to create something that can make a difference, that’s affordable and can help women.’