Give it up, Wyeth
By Martha Rosenberg
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Jun 10, 2009, 00:10
The bad news at this year�s American Society of Clinical
Oncology that met in Orlando, Florida, is women on hormone therapy or hormone
replacement therapy (HRT) who develop lung cancer are 60 percent more likely to
die from it. The findings are from continued tracking of participants in the
federal Women�s Health (WHI) Initiative study which was terminated in 2002
because of adverse effects.
But the good news according to hormone maker Wyeth�s Joseph
Camardo, MD, is that younger women, aged 51 to 54, are starting to use HRT
rather than women older than 63 and �the same risks may not apply with the new
patterns of use.�
The �timing� theory -- that discredited hormone therapy
still has benefits for younger women -- is gaining traction in articles and
marketing materials thanks to industry-sponsored studies showing �new�
cognitive, heart and metabolic benefits. In fact in May, the Washington Post
reprinted such HRT revisionism from the �news source� of the Massachusetts
General Hospital website where it was flanked by an article about HRT�s heart
benefits -- written by a Wyeth paid doctor -- and an exploration of HRT�s �cancer
question.� Five thousand women with Prempro and Premarin injury suits wouldn�t
call it a question.
Doctors at a Philippine Society of Climacteric Medicine
convention this month in San Juan City are similarly re-enamored with HRT
according to the Philippine news site tribuneonline, claiming it shields women
from cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, cognitive disorders, dementia, skin
atrophy, atherosclerosis and even urge-stress incontinence -- abjuring the
�The beneficial effects of HRT in younger postmenopausal
women appear to be due to HRT�s ability to increase high-density lipoproteins (�good�
fats) and reduce low-density lipoproteins (�bad� fats), glucose, weight,
insulin levels, the incidence of new onset diabetes and a handful of other risk
factors for heart diseases,� says Shelley R. Salpeter, MD, clinical professor
of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine and a Wyeth paid
consultant, according to the American Journal of Medicine.
Last summer the University of North Texas Health Science
Center at Fort Worth also took a second look at HRT with a continuing medical
education course, titled a �A Fresh Look at Hormone Therapy,� chaired by James
A. Simon, MD, a consultant and paid speaker for Wyeth, according to course
�Estrogen deficiency, the hallmark of menopause, can
diminish a woman�s quality of life,� begins the course�s audacious �monograph�
as if it were still 1966 and �Feminine Forever,� were a bestseller -- whereupon
it also segues into HRT�s �cardioprotective� properties, a decades-long
marketing claim never approved by the FDA and therefore illegal.
Of course, most people realize that HRT causes most of the
conditions it was supposed to prevent -- the H stands for hoax -- and was
hardly the fountain of youth it was marketed as for 40 years. In fact, HRT is
so dangerous, the WHI study was stopped so no more women would sustain its
adverse side effects.
Instead of preventing heart disease, it increases risk by 26
Instead of preventing stroke, it increases the risk by 41
Instead of preventing breast cancer, it increases the risk
by 29 percent.
Instead of preventing blood clots, it doubles the risk.
And there�s more. Hormone therapy also increases the risk of
ovarian cancer, dementia, asthma, malignant melanoma, urinary incontinence,
gout, the need for joint replacement, gallbladder disease, dying of lung
cancer, a shrinking brain and complicates diabetes, according to other studies.
Nor do the adverse effects happen slowly. Findings from last
year�s San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium show HRT doubles the risk for breast
cancer in just five years and increases the risk in just two years.
HRT is such a preventable cause of disease among women, US
breast cancer cases fell 7 percent and estrogen-positive cases 15 percent as
soon as women turned their backs on HRT, sparing 14,000 women the first year.
Cases of US women having heart attacks fell too according to the journal
Medical Care and CNN. Such much for cardioprotective.
Now that HRT is recommended for the briefest possible use
(if at all), hormone makers aren�t proclaiming women should be on it from �menopause
to death,� like Wyeth�s former CEO Robert Essner rhapsodized during HRT�s
golden age when Wyeth pocketed a cool $3 billion a year �replacing� women�s
They now use the term �menopause transition,� hoping the
transition will last five years.
But whether women are prescribed HRT, seizure medications,
antidepressants or the electroconvulsive therapy which was also once popular
for menopause, the take home message is aging is a disease in women and they
And the �timing� theory is all about the timing of revenue.
Martha Rosenberg is a Chicago
columnist/cartoonist who writes about public health. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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