NIH Decision To Halt Hormone Replacement Therapy Study Confuses Women, Doctors
Postmenopausal women and their doctors yesterday reacted with "puzzlement and disbelief" after learning that a federal study on the effects of hormone replacement therapy in postmenopausal women was halted because of health concerns, the New York Times reports (Kolata/Petersen, New York Times, 7/10). The Women's Health Initiative was terminated three years ahead of schedule because researchers determined that HRT carries a "slight but significant" increase in the risk of invasive breast cancer and other diseases (California Healthline, 7/9). News of the study's cessation sent a "mixed message" to the six million women currently taking HRT, the Dallas Morning News reports. Study leaders "urged" patients taking HRT as a preventive measure against heart disease or breast cancer to stop using the treatment. Women who take HRT to halt osteoporosis or prevent colorectal cancer were advised that they may still receive some benefit, while women who use HRT to relieve symptoms of menopause were told to consult their physicians. Dr. Margery Gass, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Cincinnati and one of the 40 principal investigators in the initiative, said, "Women will have to talk to their doctors to decide whether these risks mean they should stop using these drugs. It's an individual decision" (Jacobson, Dallas Morning News, 7/10). However, since the demonstrated risks of HRT are small -- of 10,000 women who take HRT compared to 10,000 who do not, eight more would contract breast cancer or strokes, seven more would have a heart attack and 18 more would experience blood clots in their veins or lungs -- there is time for women who use HRT to "digest the new information" and "weigh the options," according to the Los Angeles Times (Mestel, Los Angeles Times, 7/10). Wyeth, manufacturer of the "popular" HRT Prempro, saw its stock "plung[e]" 24% yesterday after the NIH announcement (Silverman, Newark Star-Ledger, 7/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.