Archive for the ‘WOMENS HEALTH’ Category

The WHI trial results of 2002 concluded that the risks of using HRT outweighed the benefits. But industry had too much to lose. Like the contraceptive pill, hormone replacement therapy was one of the biggest money spinners of all time and history had shown that healthy older women are a target group easily convinced.  So as the years have gone by the risks of cancer heart attack and stroke have been downplayed and the possible benefits to bone and menopause management enthusiastically revisited. Although many women have stopped using HRT, some have continued and others returned, reassured by their doctors that the risks are minimal.

But the damning evidence keeps coming…

Further analysis of the WHI trial has found that taking combined oestrogen plus progestin longer than 5-years nearly doubles subsequent breast cancer risk each year. [i]  And among current smokers using combined HRT there was an increased risk for death from non-small-cell lung cancer. It was reported that 1 in 100 current smokers experienced an avoidable death during the 8 years of the study. The death rate among women who had been most regular with their HRT during the trial was 53 percent higher in the hormone group than in the placebo group. [ii]

A Dutch study published in February 2009 found that women taking HRT for more than six months at a time are twice as likely to have a malignant melanoma. The investigation, one of the largest ever carried out on oestrogen use and malignant melanomas, found a sharp increase in risk.[iii]

A study published in the journal Cancer in March 2009 reports that breast cancer risk increases steadily during the first three years of hormone therapy and the combination of oestrogen and progesterone is the HRT regimen most likely to be the source of that danger.[iv]   In addition, women who used oestrogen for 10 years or longer had a 50 percent increase in risk of invasive lobular breast cancer.


A Nationwide Danish prospective cohort study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in July 2009 concluded that regardless of the duration of use, the formulation oestrogen dose, regimen, progestin type, and route of administration, hormone therapy was associated with an increased risk for ovarian cancer. [v]


More dodgy science

Physicians rely on medical literature to keep abreast of safety profiles. A colleague’s name on a peer-reviewed article gives confidence when making prescribing decisions. But it has come to light that over several years Wyeth pharmaceuticals hired medical ghost-writers to create favourable articles about HRT that would later add the name of a reputable physician, giving the appearance that they were the writer. A New York Times article ‘Medical Papers by Ghostwriters Pushed Therapy’ of August 4th  documents the practice which is also known to be used by other pharmaceutical companies.  Earlier this year it came to light that Merck went so far as to create a fake medical journal called The Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine in order to promote Vioxx and Fosamax.  World osteoporosis authorities were named on the editorial board, giving great credibility to what was nothing but a marketing tool. Unsuspecting doctors receiving the literature would be hard pushed to see through the deception.



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A sensation was created in osteoporosis research circles recently (Nov 26 2008) when a report published in Cell revealed that serotonin made by the gut appears to control bone formation. Osteoporosis authorities expressed surprised at the development which the investigators hail as a breakthrough that could lead to a new and very different treatment. The preliminary research was conducted on mice that were engineered to have human genes.

Ninety-five percent of serotonin in the body is produced in the gut and only 5 percent in the brain. The discovery is linked to a gene called LRP5 which controls an enzyme that converts the amino acid tryptophan to serotonin in the gut. The new research indicates that high levels of gut serotonin inhibit bone growth, and lowered levels of serotonin make bone denser.

The serotonin link to bone strength was identified in children with a rare condition of very weak bones and in people with extremely dense jaw bones. These conditions were found to be due to mutations of the gene LRP5 which in turn either impaired or increased bone formation. The projection from the discovery is that a drug may be created that reduces serotonin production in the gut thereby stimulating bone growth.

As exciting as it sounds, the information may not alter what we know about age-related osteoporosis as the investigators found osteoporosis patients tend to have normal serotonin levels. And in the trial, animals with normal genes that were fed a tryptophan deficient diet didn’t grown denser bones. Time will tell whether this apparent ‘breakthrough’ will translate into a safe and effective new treatment.  Read more…

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A National Women’s Health Network article  Bone-Breaking Drugs? reports on the sudden increased incidence of unusual and serious fractures of the femur (thigh bone) in women taking Fosamax (alendronate) for more than four years.  A  Medline search revealing more than 50 reported cases suggests an epidemic of such fractures say the authors Adriane Fugh-Berman and Charlea T. Massion, as reported cases usually tend to be the tip of the iceberg.

 Reports of serious adverse reactions to bisphosphonate drugs continue to accumulate, indicating they may be doing far more harm than previously thought.  Jaw necrosis and other bone necrosis (bone death) is associated with bisphosphonate use and many dentists now won’t work on orthodontic problems in people on bisphosphonates  as even without osteonecrosis of the jaw,  there is an overall impairment of bone repair mechanisms. Earlier this year the FDA issued an alert regarding chronic and debilitating joint bone and muscle pain. And recently, after examining the evidence the FDA has not been able to confirm that the drugs cause irregular heart rhythms (atrial fibrilliation), but can’t rule it out, either. The FDA says it will do further studies of this issue, but in the meantime it has alerted women about the possible problem. 

A 2006 literature review published in Drug Safety concluded that the underreporting by US physicians of adverse drug reactions including serious and fatal adverse drug reactions is in excess of 90 percent.  Astonishing!  If you or someone in your family has experienced a serious reaction to a bisphosphonate drug or any medical product, you can now report directly to the US Food and Drug Administration MedWatch program by going to the MedWatch homepage clicking on “How to Report”, then “Reporting by Health Professionals” or “Reporting by Consumers”. Or you can report your adverse experience directly to the MedWatch Program by calling call 1-800-FDA-1088.


There are also consumer websites like  http://www.askapatient.com or http://www.topix.com/forum/drug/ where you can read others experiences, ask questions and discuss your concerns.

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It is with great sadness that I write of the death on Feb 27 of Barbara Seaman. Barbara was a fearless and prolific writer on women’s issues, probably most famous for challenging the cavalier use of powerful hormones to prevent pregnancy, assist conception, manage menopause, and ‘prevent’ age-related disease. One of the early feminist/activists of the women’s movement in the US, she has been a friend to many and a foe of industry when it has sought profit over safety for women. I had the great privilege of meeting and interviewing her in Manhattan in 2006. She has been incredibly kind to me in the few years that I have known her – connecting me with people in her network, giving me articles for my website and always supporting my work. I will miss her very much. Her friend and co-founder of the National Women’s Health Network Phyllis Chesler has written a moving eulogy and others have added comments. Read also an article from the LA Times on March 2.

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Results from a 5 year Japanese study indicate that Pycnogenol or French maritime pine bark extract is an extremely effective natural treatment for endometriosis without dangerous side effects. The study found Pycnogenol was effective in reducing symptoms of endometriosis, such as pelvic pain and menstrual pain, according to the results reported in the March 2007 issue of the Journal of Reproductive Medicine. (more…)

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It is truly astonishing, and most heartening. Breast cancer incidence continues to decline. Some 30,000 fewer women developed breast cancer in the US in 2003 and 2004 – the lowest rate since 1987 and something that few doubt is directly aligned to the decline in HRT use since that time. Of note, estrogen receptor postive tumours – those most likely to be affected by HRT use – have declined by a massive 14.7 percent. 

 HRT is much in the news. Two weeks ago a flurry of articles in the media announced that it appeared to be safe afterall for younger women in the ten years after menopause. It wasn’t true of course.    (more…)

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A recent British study has identified intact parabens in breast cancer tumours, raising concerns that regular use of cosmetics with paraben content could be influencing breast cancer development. Parabens are known to have a weak oestrogenic action. The hormone oestrogen is known to increase the risk of breast cancer. (more…)

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