Despite Medical Journals’ TKO, HRT is still not DOA

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Last week, the world’s two leading medical journals delivered TKOs against hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

An article in the Lancet found HRT raised the risk of ovarian cancer by 20% in a million women.

And an article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) found an estimated 180,000 women a year have NOT died from breast cancer presumably because they quit HRT.

But it’s just a matter of time before the second and third opinions of hormone profiteers appear.

After all, it isn’t just Wyeth and Pfizer who want women to keep taking these wonder drugs.

There are legions of “menopause doctors” who finance their lifestyles with the one-trick misogyny medicine known as HRT.

In UK, menopause clinics even prescribe HRT for women with breast cancer it is said.

Just look what happened when an April 4 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association reanalyzed Women’s Health Initiative data to find that HRT doesn’t cause heart disease in women under 59 – only stroke and breast cancer.

“New Study Clears Use of Hormones for Women in Their 50s” read one headline.

“Review study reverses 2002 caution against HRT,” said another.

“HRT reduces the risk of heart disease,” said a third-throwing caution to the wind.

(Doesn’t cause/prevents – same idea, right?)

You had to look pretty carefully to find HRT still causes blood clots, lung cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer, gall bladder cancer, endometrial cancer, lupus, asthma, scleroderma, hearing loss, urinary incontinence, dementia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma according to published reports.

Already Wyeth, maker of HRT drugs Prempro and Premarin, has greeted the NEJM article with skepticism.

“One possible factor contributing to the decrease in breast cancer incidence reported in 2003 could be a decline in mammography screening during the same time period,” it submits.

A similar drop was not seen in other countries, says a medical press release on the Web. Moreover “studies have not indicated any increased risk in breast cancer among women younger than age 60 who use HRT.”

Hormone profiteers love the younger women loophole that says the women with all the HRT problems were too old to begin with.

Not only is it in keeping with the HRT premise that you’re not supposed to get old, it opens a whole new demographic.

Anyone doubt that 45-year-olds would do better on HRT than 49-year-olds too in the growing “perimenopause” category?

It wasn’t that long ago that federal researchers halted the 27,000 women Women’s Health Initiative study because HRT caused the very conditions it was supposed to prevent like heart disease and stroke.

Billed for decades by the popular press and Big Pharma as an anti-aging elixir, HRT became one of the biggest medical hoaxes of the second half of the 20th Century.

Wyeth – the main pusher of HRT – had to close a manufacturing plant in Rouses Point, NY and eliminate 15% of its sales force as Prempro plummeted 76% and Premarin, 47%. (Premarin, derived from pregnant mares urine, also harms horses who are hooked up to “pee lines” while their foals are sent to slaughter.) It faces 5200 lawsuits.

Pfizer, maker of Provera, saw its lowest stock price ever in 2005.

Nor did the fallout stop there.

Last year a study by the MD Anderson Cancer Center revealed that breast cancer dropped 7% from 2002 to 2003, the year that 20 million women abandoned HRT, presumably because they quit. Estrogen positive breast cancer dropped 15%. This month’s NEJM confirms the trend with another year’s data.

Studies by the Northern California Cancer Center and Canadian Cancer Society found even larger margins.

But even as Big Pharma and its minion doctors try to push HRT for anyone who will take it, there are signs it is conceding defeat.

Wyeth has a new drug in the pipeline it hopes to launch as a non-hormonal menopause drug.

Made from the same compound as its antidepressant Effexor, it is hoping Pristiq will take off before the Effexor patent runs out in 2010.

Needless to say, it will be called new.

Martha Rosenberg is the Investigative Health Correspondent for NewsBlaze. Martha illustrates many of her stories with relevant cartoons. She was staff cartoonist at Evanston Roundtable.