Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The insidious bioidentical hormone scam

I'm not sure if anyone's ever heard of bioidentical hormones, but apparently Suzane Somers has been touting them for some time, even on the Larry King show.

I read an interesting piece in the magazine skeptic today, that brought this insane situation to the fore. The article notes that the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study, which initially raised concerns about hormone therapy, has been:
misrepresented and misinterpreted. Media reports gave the impression that HRT was killing women. Not so. Over 10,000 person-years, women on estrogen plus progestin had 7 more coronary events, 8 more strokes, 8 more pulmonary emboli, and 8 more invasive breast cancers than women who didn’t take hormones; but they also had 6 fewer colorectal cancers and 5 fewer hip fractures, and the same number of deaths overall.

So women weren’t dying because of HRT, but they were increasing their risk of some diseases while reducing their risk of others. Overall the risks exceeded the benefits. Current recommendations are to use HRT for a limited time only to control menopausal symptoms, and not to use it for disease prevention. Most of us think these recommendations will be altered in the future as we learn more about risk factors and genetic susceptibility. Meanwhile, we try to individualize advice: your doctor is more likely to recommend HRT if you are at very low risk of cardiovascular disease and at high risk of osteoporosis or colorectal cancer.
The problem with estrogen, or any hormone therapy, is that the hormones hit all of the hormone receptors in the body. The problem is that some hormone receptors (notably in the bone, gut, and vagina), react positively from a therapeutic point of view, while others (notably heart, vascular system, and breast) could create serious problems. These are all estrogen how do bioidentical hormone advocates claim that their hormones will only activate the good hormone receptors but not the bad? They cant. This is complicated by the fact that:
there are lots of different estrogenic compounds found in the body, including estriol, estradiol and estrone. Nothing we do is likely to replace all the estrogenic compounds in exactly the way they occur in the body.
Ok, so basically its a complex situation, the human body isn't simple. I think everyone can understand that. The hormone drugs that were studied in WHI were Premarin and Provera, and they are now dosed at much lower amounts and for shorter periods as a result of WHI (gynecologists love them, by the way, laughing at the overly wary nature of other specialties). However, some bioidentical advocates preposterously claim that:
Premarin and Provera, the drugs studied in the WHI study, are artificial and harmful, while bioidentical hormones are natural and harmless.
(for evidence of this claim, see here)

Why, you ask, is it preposterous to claim that natural, wonderful, lovely hormones are not as they seem? Well, bioidentical doesnt really mean anything scientifically, but it has become a catchy moniker for this 'new wave' hormone therapy that nicely jives with popular culture going green. But the golden nugget, the truly awesome part, is that bioidenticals are synthesized in a laboratory....from plants!

Again I feel a confusion from my 4 readers...plants are surely a natural source of estrogen, why would I mock them? Well, the answer lies in Premarin's name.

You see, pharmaceutical companies are laughably terrible at coming up with names. Premarin is simply a contraction of 'pregnant mare's urine'. Yes my readers, Premarin is simply condensed, purified urine from a pregnant member of the equine species, a mammal. It contains 30 different estrogenic compounds...seems to me a hell of a lot more natural than estrogen produced in plant cells under laboratory conditions.

Perhaps Suzanne Somers and the rest of these morons are working from an alternative evolutionary tree than everyone else?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good article. My wife used to watch Oprah all the time, however even she was disgusted after watching the episode with Susan Summers. It was a crafted infomercial that in my opinion put the Oprah disciples at risk by touting hormonal therapy as safe and "needed by all". It was a shameful pharmaceutical sponsored show.