Health Supreme by Sepp Hasslberger

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March 08, 2004

Is Hormone Replacement Therapy Dead?

One might think that a "therapy" that is found to significantly increase one's chances to contract other, disrelated diseases, while doing little to prevent or treat the original "disease" it is meant to cure, would be called off forthwith. HRT or hormone replacement therapy, prescribed to millions of women to prevent or alleviate the discomforts of menopause, has shown to do exactly that, yet it is still available and is paid for by national health systems.

Years after the warnings against HRT by concerned investigators in the alternative health area, we now have the World Health Organization warning to say that HRT is not the miracle cure it was claimed to be. When in 1996, Nexus Magazine broke the story by publishing Sherrill Sellman's excellent article "Hormone Heresy" (Part I) (Part II), which I would urge you to read and pass on to those who are still taking hormone pills, it was in fact considered heresy to say anything against the hormone advice of medical and pharmaceutical authorities.

Now that hormone replacement has been found to be essentially useless in preventing anything and outright dangerous in its "side effects", now that a second large studiy has been shut down to protect the participants from the obvious dangers, how long will it take health authorities around the world to start moving away from the pharma-spending-paradigm towards protecting the health of those they are supposed to be protecting? Should we not be using the precautionary principle to protect from such man-made disasters as pharmaceutical deaths?

Jenny Thompson of the Baltimore Health Sciences Institute is understandably enraged. Here is what she has to say:

'Round and 'Round and 'Round and...

Health Sciences Institute e-Alert

March 8, 2004


Dear Reader,

You may have heard the news last week that another (yes, ANOTHER!) major hormone replacement therapy (HRT) study was shut down early to protect the health of subjects participating in the study. Or maybe you didn't hear about it. These studies are shutting down with such frequency lately that they barely rate a mention in most news reports. If it weren't so serious, it would pretty comical.

But what received even less attention was a recent report in the British Medical Journal that revealed a shocking turn in the HRT saga that will not make anyone laugh. Scream with anger? That would be far more appropriate.

Another one bites the dust

The study that was shut down last week was just one of several Women's Health Initiative (WHI) studies on HRT. This eight-year study of 11,000 women was stopped in its 7th year when it was determined that estrogen therapy may increase the risk of stroke.

Because estrogen taken alone has been shown to cause cancer of the endometrium (the glandular membrane that lines the uterus), many doctors consider estrogen therapy to be relatively safe for women who have had a hysterectomy. For women who still have their uteruses, progestin is added to the estrogen to prevent endometrial cancer. This combined HRT is the therapy that was being used in the 2002 WHI study that was abruptly halted when it became clear that the two drugs combined caused an increased risk of breast cancer and heart disease.

Bad news bears

As it now stands, the official recommendation from the National Institutes of Health (NIH, which oversees the WHI) is for menopausal women to discuss the risks and benefits of these drugs with their doctors. The NIH also recommends that all HRT therapy should be taken in the smallest effective dosage for the shortest length of time necessary.

But you can be sure that many HRT advocates will continue to insist that the risks are so small that women should still strongly consider taking HRT. And it seems that no amount of bad news about HRT will shake their belief in the safety of these drugs - even though the news over the past two years has been uniformly negative. For instance:

* A 2003 study showed that combined HRT increased the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. The FDA now requires a warning about this on all HRT drug labeling.

* A University of Rochester study reported just last month that women who took HRT suffered from impaired hearing.

* Also reported last month was a study from Brigham and Women's Hospital showing a sharply increased risk of asthma for women taking either estrogen alone or combined HRT.

Arguably, none of these health problems are as significant as the 2002 revelation that HRT increases the risk of heart disease - the disease that kills more women than any other. But it turns out that this risk was known years before 2002.

Insert scream here

In previous e-Alerts I've told you how drug makers conduct trials in preparation for an FDA review and then withhold the studies that could be damaging - submitting only the research that encourages regulatory approval. This is like giving a defendant in a court trial the power to reject witnesses for the prosecution. The glaring weakness of this system is obvious: When negative results are withheld, doctors may end up prescribing a drug without knowing about some of the associated problems. And that's exactly what happened with HRT research.

Early observational studies (using questionnaires and medical records) indicated that HRT might provide protection against heart disease. For several years this association was widely assumed to be a given. But when evidence to the contrary began to emerge, much of it was kept under wraps.

In a recent issue of the British Medical Journal, a team of two researchers (Klim McPherson and Elina Hemminki) reported on their review of 23 HRT studies; all conducted well before 2002. A good number of these studies were mounted by drug companies in support of applications to license HRT drugs in Finland. McPherson and Hemminki successfully appealed to Finland's High Court to obtain unreleased results. (A similar appeal for study results failed in the UK.)

The 23 trials included data on about 3,300 subjects. Analysis showed that HRT use actually put women at greater risk of heart disease. When their review results were initially released, McPherson and Hemminki say their findings were "ridiculed." That was in 1997 - five full years before the WHI study was shut down.

For years these results were in hand! The researchers had to go to court to obtain them, while drug companies argued that the records should not be made public. Yet, they were revealed over FIVE YEARS ago. Is there any wonder why people are turning away from mainstream medicine in droves and looking for alternatives to the status quo?

I'm sure that advocates of HRT will continue to put the best possible spin on the deteriorating reputation of this dangerous therapy. But statistics show that sales of HRT dropped off sharply last year. Women are finally learning that there are much safer ways to treat their menopausal symptoms. Especially when the list of side effects is getting longer and more serious practically every day.

See also related:
Second Estrogen Trial Stopped by U.S. Researchers

Links to articles on HRT - Medline

Pharma routinely withholding adverse effect data, even from the health authorities that approve new drugs: Pharma makers withhold suicide data in drug studies

A classic in two parts. This is eight years before the facts make it into mainstream science and press - written in 1996! Highly relevant to evaluating what is happening now.

HORMONE HERESY - Oestrogen's Deadly Truth - Part 1

HORMONE HERESY - Oestrogen's Deadly Truth - Part 2

Conjugated Estrogen Alone (Premarin) or With Medroxyprogesterone (Prempro, Premphase) Associated With Risk of Malignant Neoplasms

Hormone Replacement Therapy Reverses Effects of Aging

The Pros and "Cons" of Bioidentical Hormones

HRT cancer causing, says WHO body
Hormone replacement therapy has been classed as cancer-causing by the World Health Organization's cancer agency.

Long-term HRT 'ups cancer risk'
Long-term use of oestrogen-only hormone replacement therapy (HRT) does increase the risk of breast cancer, a major study suggests. The latest study, by Brigham and Women's Hospital and Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, followed a group of female nurses who took part in a long-term study which began in 1976. Throughout the study period, 934 women developed invasive breast cancers. Of these 226 had never used hormones, and 708 had used oestrogen therapy.

April 2007: HRT linked to ovarian cancer risk
A large UK study has found hormone replacement therapy significantly increases the risk of ovarian cancer. Figures from the Million Women Study suggest 1,000 extra women in the UK died from ovarian cancer between 1991 and 2005 because they were using HRT. The researchers, writing in the Lancet, said HRT increased the risk of ovarian, breast and womb cancers.

September 2007: Less than one-third of women aware of landmark hormone therapy study, researcher finds
Despite the huge publicity generated by a 2002 study on the potential dangers of hormone therapy for postmenopausal women, new research from the Stanford University School of Medicine found that only 29 percent of women surveyed knew about the study two years later.

Senior author Randall Stafford, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, said the new study points out that the medical profession hasn't yet figured out an effective way of communicating crucial health information to patients. "This study suggests that we have a flawed mechanism for getting information down to the level of the population," Stafford said.

New study ties hormone use to breast cancer
It is clear that breast cancer rates plunged in recent years mainly because millions of women quit hormone therapy and fewer newly menopausal women started on it, said the study's leader, Dr. Rowan Chlebowski of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.

"It's an excellent message for women: You can still diminish risk (by quitting), even if you've been on hormones for a long time."


posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Monday March 8 2004
updated on Saturday December 4 2010

URL of this article:


Related Articles

Wyeth Asks FDA: Prohibit Bio-Identical Hormones
There is time until 4 April 2006 to comment on a petition to the FDA which aims at removing from the market the natural alternative to pharmaceutical hormone replacement, which has shown to have serious adverse effects. Help is needed. Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Premarin and Prempro, both drugs extracted from the urine of pregnant mares and used in hormone replacement therapy, has asked the FDA to eliminate competition... [read more]
January 31, 2006 - Sepp Hasslberger

Hormone Heresy's 'Final Nail in the Coffin'
"Is Hormone Replacement Therapy Dead?" I asked in March this year, pointing to a statement of the World Health Organization where the therapy was described as "a big mistake". Not that we did not know for years already. Sherrill Sellman had done the research in 1996 and published it in a two-part article in Nexus Magazine under the title "Hormone Heresy", now archived here. The most recent study on the... [read more]
April 19, 2004 - Sepp Hasslberger

Natural Biomolecules: Avoid Inherent Pharmaceutical Drug Toxicity
Pharmaceutical medicine has become one of the leading causes of death in countries where western medicine is the prevalent form of treatment for the sick. This seeming paradox can only be explained by examining the mechanism of action of synthetic pharmaceutical medicines. These drugs have one inherent drawback: they are made up, in large part, of molecules that are foreign and disruptive to the natural biological processes that characterize all... [read more]
March 03, 2006 - Sepp Hasslberger

What You Should Know About Women's Health Care
"In a world of profits before health, women are being lied to and receiving second-rate care. In the year 2000 alone, more women went to alternative health care practitioners than to conventional physicians, even though insurance doesn't pay for the majority of alternatives."... [read more]
October 26, 2004 - Robin Good

Martin J Walker's 'HRT - Licensed to Kill and Maim'
A review by Emma Holister 2-10-06 (See end of article for related cartoons.) As the media direct the eyes of the world towards Bush's ceaseless war on terror, to wars in the Middle East and to threats of more wars, it seems somehow irrelevant to consider the plight of the hundreds of thousands of women whose lives have been destroyed by the medical industry's mass marketing of Hormone Replacement Therapy... [read more]
October 03, 2006 - Emma Holister

The Handy Hormone Guide
The Hormone Hostage knows that there are days in the month when all a man has to do is open his mouth and he takes his life in his own hands! This is a handy guide that should be as common as a driver's license in the wallet of every husband, boyfriend, or significant other! DANGEROUS: What's for dinner? SAFER: Can I help you with dinner? SAFEST: Where would you... [read more]
December 06, 2004 - Robin Good




Readers' Comments

I wonder why the WHO study is not more widely cited. It only appears in Australian news. Also the WHI study is being covered neutrally in US papers. There is not a universally negative message about HRT in the press, which I guess is one of the points of the above article.

Posted by: Bob W on March 8, 2004 07:14 PM


I suspect that the failure to report the WHO statement on Hormone Replacement widely may be a calculated suppression of negative information. Together with exaggerated reporting of any neutral info or benefits, this might just make it possible for business to go on as usual - never mind cancer, hearing loss, heart attacks or whatever other "side effects" of these drugs may be found in the future.

Posted by: Josef on March 9, 2004 11:27 AM


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These articles are brought to you strictly for educational and informational purposes. Be sure to consult your health practitioner of choice before utilizing any of the information to cure or mitigate disease. Any copyrighted material cited is used strictly in a non commercial way and in accordance with the "fair use" doctrine.



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