Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search

 

For what ails you - A dose of pregnant mares urine


Webhosting Special Deal- NZ$25 ex-GST per month!!! Contact Spectator for more...

Point of View with Barbara Sumner Burstyn:

First published on Spectator.co.nz…

With the recent high profile backtrack on the latest women’s wonder drug HRT; thousands of New Zealand women have gone on high alert. They’re terrified, as one of my Ponsonby friends reported over her soy latté, that the medical profession has once again used their bodies to rack up huge profits. And certainly with 50% of women aged 50 to 65 years in North America using HRT and over 194,520 prescriptions for HRT written in New Zealand in 2001, that’s undoubtedly a lot of profit from a drug touted to cure everything from hot flushes to Alzheimer’s. Instead the treatment has been shown to increase the relative risk of breast cancer by 30% and amoung other things to raise the risk of heart attack and uterine cancer.

But perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to lay the blame at the medical profession’s doorstep. It was the 1966 book Feminine Forever that started it all. The book’s author Dr Robert Wilson sang the praises of HRT claiming it could keep women young and sexually attractive. It's this basic premise that has fuelled today's HRT frenzy. Sure, as women came out of the kitchen and into the professional world the marketing profile of HRT gradually changed to encompass a range of more specialized medical promises. But as a recent New Zealand study on HRT use confirmed, the most common reason for starting treatment was to relieve symptoms or enhance 'emotional stability', sex drive and appearance. Little different from Dr Wilson’s recommended use 36 years ago.

Especially in white middle-class communities (in a 1997 study European women were more than twice as likely to be using HRT compared to Maori or Pacific Island women) where until a couple of weeks ago going on the hormone had become almost a ‘coming of middle-age’ ritual. “Why wouldn’t you?’ the same enthusiast latté buddy asked me just a couple of years ago. But perhaps the question she should have been asking was much simpler; Just what is hormone replacement therapy?

The principal ingredient in Premarin, one of the two drugs presently under fire is PMU or pregnant mares urine. If you love horses you probably don’t want to read this. It turns out the pungent, frothy yellow stuff is rich in estrogen and the demand for it so strong there are around 40,000 horses being farmed for their urine in North America. Although Premarin can now be 100% synthesized, the industry prefers the ‘organic’ nature of the real stuff. So for the majority of their 11 month pregnancy the mares are confined to the ‘pee line’, standing in stalls often no more than three and half feet wide, with no exercise, strapped into urine collection harnesses with pouches cupping their genitals, their urine sucked from them. The mares are constantly pregnant and worn out by the time they’re 5 years old. That they suffer for our drug of choice goes without saying.

It’s not just the mares that suffer. In the United States the pleasure horse market is saturated so the foals, the by-product of PMU farming are shipped off for human and animal consumption. The pharmaceutical company that buys the urine says 8,000 foals in its farms are slaughtered each year but insiders report it’s more like 30,000.

Susan Wagner the founder of US organization Equine Advocates says she’d always hoped the treatment of PMU horses would be enough to put women off using the drugs. But of course it wasn’t. It’s taken a medical misadventure and good old self-interest to end what Wagner calls ‘a 60-year catastrophe for horses.’

But horses aside, some commentators, viewing the HRT debacle, have once again asked that old feminist question; who owns women’s bodies? The answers are typical. The male dominated medical profession gets it’s share of blame and of course the pharmaceutical companies that market HRT have been accused of exploiting vulnerable women – and yes Wyeth-Ayerst the manufacturers of Premarin, were recently revealed to have paid the good Dr Wilson handsomely for his 1966 best-seller.

But surely we’re not still that stupid. The predominant users of HRT are educated professional women. We consider ourselves media savvy; we pride ourselves on seeing through glossy advertising campaigns. ‘They’ didn’t sell us another medical travesty. We bought it. For all our ‘our bodies, ourselves’ feminist rhetoric we’re still in revolt from the natural process of our bodies. The question we should be asking is not ‘how did the medical profession allow the time bomb of HRT to happen?’ but why do we, the end-users, treat our middle age as a disease, virulent enough to have its ‘cures’ subsidized by Pharmac.

Ultimately it’s us, the latte women of Ponsonby (and every other well heeled middle class suburb) who need to re-evaluate our own roles in this debacle. As to what will happen to the mares now the bottom has dropped out of the urine market is anyone’s guess. Possibly they’ll be put out to pasture, but more likely they’ll end up in some trendy new burger. Or maybe Wyeth will discover PMU miraculously cures another illness. Wrinkles perhaps.

© Barbara Sumner Burstyn

Email Barb: www.findakeeper.com

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Reese Erlich: Foreign Correspondent: Trump Plays Both Sides Against The Middle

Is he a hawk? Is he a peacenik? The President keeps us guessing . By Reese Erlich President Donald Trump has convinced Republican isolationists and hawks that he supports their views. That’s a neat trick, since the two groups hold opposing positions. ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Waiting For The Old Bailey: Julian Assange And Britain’s Judicial Establishment

On September 7, Julian Assange will be facing another round of gruelling extradition proceedings, in the Old Bailey, part of a process that has become a form of gradual state-sanctioned torture. The US Department of Justice hungers for their man. The More>>



Gordon Campbell: On The Sorry Plight Of The International Education Sector

Tourism and international education have been two of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic. They’re both key export industries. Yet the government response to them has been strikingly different. There has been nothing beyond a few words of ministerial condolence and a $51.6 million package (details below) to get the sector through the pandemic...
More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Google’s Open Letter: Fighting Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code

Tech giants tend to cast thin veils over threats regarding government regulations. They are also particularly concerned by those more public spirited ones, the sort supposedly made for the broader interest. Google has given us an example of this ... More>>


Gordon Campbell: On Trump’s Current Chances Of Re-Election

By now it seems clear that National have no fresh ideas to offer for how New Zealand could avoid the Covid-19 economic crisis. As in the past, National has set an arbitrary 30% ratio of government debt to GDP that it aims to achieve “in a decade or so,” ... More>>

The Conversation: Rogue Poll Or Not, All The Signs Point To A Tectonic Shift In New Zealand Politics

Richard Shaw AAP(various)/NZ Greens (CC-BY-SA)/The Conversation Strong team. More jobs. Better economy. So say the National Party’s campaign hoardings. Only thing is, last Sunday’s Newshub-Reid Research poll – which had support for the Labour ... More>>

The Coronavirus Republic: Three Million Infections And Rising

The United States is famed for doing things, not to scale, but off it. Size is the be-all and end-all, and the coronavirus is now doing its bit to assure that the country remains unrivalled in the charts of infection . In time, other unfortunates may well ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Altars Of Hypocrisy: George Floyd, Protest And Black Face

Be wary what you protest about. The modern moral constabulary are out, and they are assisted by their Silicon Valley friends in the Social Media club. Should you dare take a stand on anything, especially in a dramatic way, you will be found out ... More>>