Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Hormone Therapy Makes Comeback--Are Cigarettes Next?

Hormone Therapy Makes Comeback--Are Cigarettes Next?

by Martha Rosenberg
November 9, 2012


Click for big version.

It has been almost ten years since a US government study found that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) did not prevent heart disease and memory loss as advertised but increased the risk of heart attacks by 29 percent and doubled the risk of dementia. Oops.

That was not all the bad news that emerged about HRT. It also increased the risk of breast cancer by 26 percent, stroke by 41 percent, doubled the risk of blood clots and increased the risk of hearing loss, gall bladder disease, urinary incontinence, asthma, the need for joint replacement, melanoma, ovarian, endometrial and lung cancers and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, according to medical journals.

It was not exactly the fountain of youth it was billed as by hormone drug maker Wyeth (now Pfizer) in high-budget menopause awareness TV ads starring model Lauren Hutton.

In fact, HRT was such a scourge against women, in the first year that millions quit, 2003, the incidence of US breast cancer fell seven percent. It fell 15 percent among women whose tumors were fed by estrogen. Fourteen thousand women who were expected to get breast cancer didn't said news reports. And it wasn't just breast cancer women were spared: heart attack and ovarian cancer rates also fell when women quit HRT, said news reports.

The statistics must have been embarrassing to cancer researchers and public health officials. Not only was a major cause of breast cancer hidden in plain sight, the war on cancer should apparently have been a war on cancer-causing drugs!

It was even more embarrassing because the whole sequence happened before! In 1975, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel found a link between Premarin (a Wyeth HRT drug) and endometrial cancer and when women quit the drug by the millions--the same thing happened. "There was a sharp downward trend in the incidence of endometrial cancer that paralleled a substantial reduction in prescriptions for replacement estrogens," reported the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) in 1979.

Not wanting to lose its billion dollar HRT franchise, Wyeth's medical director wrote doctors at the time that HRT still had "proven benefits" at the "the lowest maintenance dose" and that it was "simplistic indeed to attribute an apparent increase in the diagnosis of endometrial carcinoma solely to estrogen therapy."

Thirty years later, when cancer rates again dropped, Wyeth also bit back. It announced the reason women weren't seeing prevention of heart disease and memory loss from HRT was they weren't taking it soon enough. They needed to start treatment sooner. Ka-ching. The early treatment campaign was called the "timing theory."

Soon a National Institute on Aging trial and privately funded trials on "menopausal" primates, both led by Wyeth-funded investigators, were underway at major medical centers. After all, before 2002, millions of American women, perhaps the majority, had been on HRT. Wasn't there a way to get them back?

Last month the hormone revival campaign hit pay dirt. Women "who took treatments such as Pfizer Inc.'s estrogen pill Premarin within five years of menopause lowered their chance of Alzheimers by 30 percent," wrote the Washington Post about a study in the journal Neurology.

"It's really important to distinguish between studies that are able to look at early use of hormone therapy versus later use," said Pauline M. Maki, PhD on WebMD about the same study. Maki has received research support from Wyeth according to a July 2010 article in the journal Menopause. WebMD just imported a new CEO from Pfizer.

The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) not Big Pharma. But NIA is so collegial with hormone makers, it funded the North American Menopause Society's entire 2009 annual meeting replete with Wyeth-funded doctor presenters and even Wyeth employee presenters. It also invited top Wyeth officials for a "Where Are We Now?" meeting soon after its products were linked to cancer/heart disease/blood clots/stroke/dementia.

Even if HRT did lower Alzheimer risk--would it be ethical to prescribe it in light of its other risks or even conduct trials? HRT's negative cognitive effects are so well known, a 2006 Reuters story began, "Regular exercise may prevent the mental decline associated with the long-term use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT)." And two studies in the January 13, 2009 issue of Neurology link HRT to brain shrinkage.

Hormone markers have also floated the idea that early HRT would prevent heart disease and/or cancer. But a 2011 analysis from the Million Women Study, sponsored by England's National Health Service, found women who took hormones the earliest, before or soon after the onset of menopause, were at the greatest risk of getting breast cancer.

Why does the government let--and even help--Big Pharma market HRT like it's a brand new product instead of the cause of two cancer epidemics--so far? Would anyone tell cigarette smokers to start smoking earlier?

*************

The complete story of unethical marketing of HRT to women is found in Martha Rosenberg's recent book, Born with a Junk Food Deficiency.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Gordon Campbell: On Donald Trump, And Dr Dre

For the past few months, you, me, and Rupert Murdoch have been waiting for the wheels to fall off the Trump campaign, and for some drab incarnation of business-as-usual (Jeb Bush, Scott Walker) to emerge as the real Republican standard bearer in next year’s presidential election... More>>

ALSO:

Hiroshima: 70 Years On, The Nuclear Threat Looms As Large As Ever

Rumours had been circulating in Hiroshima that the city was being saved for something special. It was. The burst of ionising radiation, blast, heat and subsequent firestorm that engulfed the city on August 6 killed 140,000 people by the end of 1945. More>>

ALSO:

#FutureOfNews: Challenge & Solution - A ''New Scoop''

The development of Scoop's new "Ethical Paywall" approach to licensing commercial use of its news content and addressing the current State of the NZ News Media and the challenges being faced news media everywhere. More>>

ALSO:

Lyndon Hood: God Defend The National Anthem

Recently Labour leader Andrew Little said – deliberately, I think – that he didn't like New Zealand's national anthem and many New Zealanders preferred to sing along to the Australian one. More>>

Keith Rankin: Centenary Of The Battle For Chunuk Bair

I don't agree with the view that our national identity was forged at Gallipoli, despite the rah-rah about this in the week leading up to Anzac Day... What concerns me now, however, is our lack of respect for our own history. Why have we switched off? More>>

ALSO:

Werewolf: Pitch Perfect

Among his other blessings, Pope Francis has been a gift to the world of marketing studies. There can be few other examples where a leader has transformed the perception of an enterprise so thoroughly, but without making any discernible change to its core principles. More>>

ALSO:

US Politics: The Democrats Try To Engage With America (Again)

Venues are being rebooked to accommodate the thousands of people coming to listen to Vermont Senator, avowed socialist, and presidential aspirant Bernie Sanders talk about the redistribution of wealth. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news