Some days I feel like this millennium’s Nostradamus. A full year ago I wrote to you about new research that revealed yet ANOTHER serious health danger linked to the use of synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
That was October 2009. The LA Times said the new finding might be "the final blow" for HRT drugs.
Final blow? Oh…LA Times…you are so naÃ¯ve (sigh). I called this research just the latest in a long line of "final" blows. And I offered this prediction: The next final blow would "probably come along in a year or so."
Guess what? October 2010–the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that HRT is now linked with another potentially fatal health risk.
Honestly? I wish I had nothing to crow about. Between one October and another, I wish Pfizer had finally done the responsible thing and taken its two HRT drugs Prempro and Premarin off the market. Or the FDA had done what we pay it to do and protect women from these franken-pills.
But instead, in the course of the year, many women have put their lives at risk due to their use of these drugs.
Alarm bells still ringing
October 2009: New research shows that lung tissue has estrogen receptors. So when lung cancer is present and a patient takes synthetic HRT, the risk of death from the disease nearly doubles.
October 2010: New research shows that breast cancer patients who use synthetic HRT appear to double their risk of dying from the disease.
Of course, when the HRT alarm bells started going off in July 2002, breast cancer was in the spotlight. That summer, the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study was shut down when researchers recognized a clear link between HRT use and increased risk of invasive breast cancer.
Since 2002, further WHI research has linked HRT use with higher risk of heart attack, stroke, and dementia.
So how do Pfizer executives and FDA officials live with themselves?
Easy. They get off on a technicality.
Here’s how a Pfizer spokesman puts it: "We stand behind the current, science-based guidance in Prempro’s label, which advises doctors to prescribe the medicine at the ‘lowest effective dose and for the shortest duration consistent with treatment goals and risks for the individual woman.’"
Lowest dose. Shortest duration. That’s sort of like saying, "This stuff is radioactive. Severely limit your exposure."
And based on this advice, the FDA lets them slide. "Women are at grave risk? Well, apparently they’re not limiting their dose and duration."
So you might expect that a dangerous drug like this wouldn’t sell very well. And by drug company standards, profits are pretty low. But in real-world terms, they’re staggering. In the second quarter of 2010, Pfizer reported sales of $260 million for Prempro and Premarin.
Behind those sales are thousands of customers. That is, to Pfizer they’re customers. To you and me they’re mothers, grandmothers, daughters, aunts, sisters, cousins, friends, neighbors–real people. At very real risk.
What will another year bring? It’s too easy to predict. More sales. More grave threats to our health. No action.
Jenny Thompson is the Director of the Health Sciences Institute and editor of the HSI e-Alert. Through HSI, she and her team uncover important health information and expose ridiculous health misinformation, most notably through the HSI e-Alert.
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