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


Werewolf: ‘Disruption’ Is For Losers

Disruption – anarchic, dynamic, table-tipping, mould-breaking, consensus-shattering disruption – has become part of every corporate bout of auto-hype to the faddish point where the term has lost any useful meaning it might once have had. More>>


Werewolf: Coney Island (And The Trumps), Baby

Like much of that part of the coast, and given the storm surges of Hurricane Sandy, Coney Island should be occupied only by clumps of grass and seabirds. Instead there are 60,000 people in multi-storey apartment buildings living among the faded remnants of a once-spectacular fantasyland.. More>>


Gordon Campbell:
On Corbyn, Trump And Outsider Politics

Jeremy Corbyn elevated to the leadership of Britain’s Labour Party! Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders on the rise in the US… On both sides of the Atlantic, these are dark days for the political Establishment. More>>


Operation Chrysalis: A New Beginning For Scoop

On December 19th 2014 the Scoop Team set out on a project called "Operation Chrysalis". We decided to turn Scoop's 16 year old online news publishing business into a new kind of news business, one connected directly to its readers, owned by a not-for-profit and based on a new business model. More>>


Keith Rankin: The Economy - What's It For?

I re-watched the Q+A 'immigration debate' screenedon 23 August. In light of recent events, the discussion already seems very dated. The underlying assumptions were that the economy is a system in which production growth is pretty much the sole objective, and that migration policy must serve this end of output maximisation... More>>

Until Dawn: Pick Your Own Horrible Adventure

Suppermassive Games’ Until Dawn sees a group of dumb sexy teenagers take a trip to a spooky mansion atop a mountain. It is, obviously, a horror game. However, the game is so ridiculous it turns out to be more of a comedy. Until Dawn begins with ... More>>

Get More From Scoop

Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news