Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT, is a medical treatment for women who have reached or passed menopause. HRT involves taking small doses of hormones – estrogen and/or progesterone. Prempro is a medication that combines conjugated equine estrogens plus medroxyprogerstone acetate also known as CEE/MPA. The conjugated estrogens are obtained from the urine of pregnant mares and progestin part of Prempro is the synthetic form of the hormone progesterone.
HRT was once hailed as the drug that would ease a woman through menopause while protecting the heart. However, despite these hopes numerous studies have shown that HRT causes a large number of serious problems including the increased risk of stroke, heart disease, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer, deep-venous thrombosis, and gallbladder disease. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is the World Health Organization’s (WHO) cancer research group classifies both birth control pills and HRT as “carcinogenic to humans”.
A large study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in August of 1998 showed that HRT provided no benefit in coronary heart disease but did increase the risk of venous thromboembolic events and gallbladder disease.
A study called the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) enrolled over 160,000 women from 40 different medical centers. The purpose of the study was to examine the health benefits and risks of HRT. In July 2002, the study that involved the use of HRT was stopped mainly because of the detected 26% increased risk in breast cancer.
In 2004, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that women aged 60 to 69 were 4.3 times more likely to develop a clot if taking combined HRT, while women in their seventies were at 7.5 times the risk.
In 2005, academics at the University of Nottingham released their findings after a major review of 28 clinical trials involving nearly 40,000 patients on HRT. The team concluded that HRT, which is taken by 1.7 million women in the United Kingdom, increased the risk of stroke by 29%.
Dr Edith Weisberg, chairwoman of the National Health and Medical Research Council's HRT working party, stated that in a group of 1000 women aged 30 there would be only one extra case of breast cancer, and that for women taking HRT for five years or more the risk of breast cancer is four extra cases for every 1000 women.
In April 2007 a report in the New Zealand Herald reported that the world’s largest study on HRT showed that it may have caused 1,000 deaths from ovarian cancer in Britain between 1991 and 2005. Previous results from the same study showed that HRT increased the risk of breast and endometrial cancers. Overall, the incidence of these three common cancers is increased by 63 per cent among women currently taking HRT compared with those who have never taken it.
Shockingly, in 2005 the Daily Mail reported on the writings of U.S. researchers published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health on the history of HRT. The researchers outline the results of a meeting of historians, biologists, and women's health advocates to discuss the recent reaction to the recent HRT studies and noted that the cancer-causing potential of the sex hormones used in hormone replacement therapy has been known since the 1930s.
The researchers said the question that needed to be answered was “Why, for four decades, since the mid-1960s, were millions of women prescribed powerful pharmacological agents already shown, three decades earlier, to be carcinogenic?” According the article, the researchers questioned why repeated warnings were ignored and not translated into health policies to protect women. They suggested that the pharmaceutical industry, doctors and researchers “colluded” to promote the view that the menopause was a “deficiency disease” and women needed long-term HRT to “prevent illness, loss of sexuality and ugly ageing”.
In 2006, the Globe and Mail reported on a study that was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that linked HRT to hearing loss. The research found problems in the inner ear and in some measures of brain function affecting hearing in women using hormone therapy with progestin.
Now adding to the list of negative consequences a recent study in the journal Epilepsia shows that HRT increases the frequency of seizures in postmenopausal women. The authors performed a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in postmenopausal women with epilepsy.
The study notes, “For postmenopausal women with epilepsy, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) presents another potential source or hormonal influences on seizure activity. One survey suggests that it may exacerbate seizures. This would seem plausible, given that estrogen in proconvulsant in several animal models.”
The study found, “the association of increased seizure frequency with increasing CEE/MPA dose was significant for an increase in seizure frequency of any seizure type after HRT treatment.”
The authors do offer a suggestion that a possibly safer HRT treatment would be with the use of natural progesterone. “Statistically significant findings in open-label investigations suggest that natural progesterone supplement may reduce the seizure frequency in women with catamenial [of or relating to menstruation] epilepsy.
Source: Epilepsia, September 2006