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Women’s group launches campaign against HRT

Women’s group launches campaign to inform New Zealand about risks of HRT

Every pharmacy, GP practice and library in the country will today be receiving up-to-date information about the risks of hormone replacement therapy. Auckland-based Women’s Health Action has mailed out 60,000 HRT information cards and announces a series of seminars for women in Auckland.

The women’s group is taking this action, saying it is filling a gap that has not been filled by health authorities. ‘We have known since July 10 that combined HRT use is linked to a significantly increased risk of breast cancer, stroke, heart disease and blood clots’ says Executive Director of Women’s Health Action, Sandra Coney. " I am very concerned that it is now mid-September and the 100,000 HRT users in NZ are still unable to get authoritative advice."

In the US the Food and Drug Authority is placing tight restrictions on the prescribing of hormone replacement and is considering a ‘could be fatal’ warning on drug labels following the release of new evidence of serious risk to HRT users. The large Women’s Health Initiative trial looking at the benefits and risks of HRT was halted recently after it was considered too risky to continue. So far the only advice New Zealand women have been given is to discuss their situation with their doctors. Many hundreds of women have called Women’s Health Action’s HRT info-line for accurate information and their stories reflect a worrying trend — GPs are ill-informed of the new evidence of risk, and are repeatedly reassuring women that HRT is safe and that they can confidently continue to take it.

Some women have been wrongly led to believe that they will have a heart attack or nervous breakdown if they come off the hormones, or that they will begin to age rapidly. One woman was even told to stay on it to prevent breast cancer, and many are using it to protect their bones regardless of whether they have risk factors for osteoporosis. Many women have no idea at all why they have been taking HRT – some for 20 years or more.

"One of the most startling results of the WHI trial is that even short-term use of HRT carries risks" says Ms Coney. "This is a major public health concern. We could be looking at something like 35 more heart attacks, 40 more strokes, and 90 more blood clots annually if the WHI results are applied to the NZ population. In women who have used HRT for three or more years there would be at least 40 more cases of breast cancer annually. It seems extraordinary to countenance such harm to health."

Australian women are reported to have stopped hormone therapy en-masse following a statement from the Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration warning them of the risks. The country's biggest supplier, Wyeth Australia, reports a drop in sales of about 30 percent so far. Internationally, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals have changed their prescription information to recommend that women remain on all hormone therapies for the shortest time possible. They emphasise that the drugs should not be taken for heart disease and that other treatments should be considered for osteoporosis.

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