The Strange Return of Hormone Replacement Therapy

Once again the But-There’s-Money-In-It apparatus has sprung to life to resuscitate hormone therapy (HT) in an article called The Estrogen Dilemma in this week’s New York Times magazine.

For reporters and scientists aware of the cascade of hormone therapy (HT) cancer and morbidity studies, seeing its pharma-invented “benefits” disinterred for another lap around the track is like seeing an article suggesting cigarettes may be good for you after all.

Since the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) findings in 2002 — which author Cynthia Gorney, parroting the pharma line, says overlooked younger women and cardio benefits –HT has been linked to asthma, lupus, scleroderma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, urinary incontinence, hearing loss, cataracts, malignant melanoma, lung cancer, gout, joint degeneration, dementia, loss of mental acuity, a shrinking brain, (pant, pant), diabetes complications and colon, ovarian, gall bladder and endometrial cancer.

And that’s not counting the 26 percent increased risk of breast cancer, 29 percent increased risk of heart attack, 41 percent increased risk of stroke, and doubled risk of blood clots seen with the Women’s Health Initiative.

In fact HT was such a source of manmade, preventable morbidity and mortality, when 50 million women quit, estrogen positive breast cancer fell by 15 percent and has continued to fall, sparing some 14,000 women a year. And more than 5,000 women have filed suits claiming Wyeth’s HT drug, Prempro, gave breast cancer. Wyeth is now part of Pfizer.

No wonder Gorney’s “sources” are the Wyeth funded Roberta Diaz Brinton, Thomas Clarkson–who worked with the Wyeth ghostwriting firm, DesignWrite–and Louann Brizendine and Claudio N. Soares who have served as actual paid Wyeth speakers.

Gorney spins a poignant tale about a psycho-socio-hormonal-spiritual breakdown that led her to hormone discipleship in midlife. (Weeks after another meltdown tale that wasn’t hormonal in the magazine by Conde Nast’s Dominique Browning.)

But not only is her Suzanne Somers/Lauren Hutton hormone anecdotalism dwarfed by radiation and chemo stories — Hello? — cigarettes make you feel good too.

Worse, the claims of HT cognition, memory and heart benefits that Gorney repeats in the article originated with Wyeth ghostwriting and are not science. Sen. Charles Grassley (R.-Iowa) investigated the deception in 2008 and the original docs can be viewed at the University of California, San Francisco’s Drug Industry Document Archive (DIDA)

Published papers, written by Wyeth operatives but planted in respectable journals with real doctors names affixed as authors include:

The Role of Hormone Replacement Therapy in the Prevention of Alzheimer Disease by Howard M. Fillit, Mild Cognitive Impairment: Potential Pharmacological Treatment Options by Barbara B. Sherwin, The Role of Hormone Replacement Therapy in the Prevention of Postmenopausal Heart Disease by Lori Mosca and Prevention of Heart Disease in Women: Is Postmenopausal Estrogen Therapy Warranted? by Ian H. Thorneycroft.

HT does not improve memory or cognition in women but doubled all types of dementia according to the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study a WHI substudy.

Many know about the Premarin mares that are tethered to pee lines to produce Wyeth’s signature pregnant mare urine that is the basis of the HT franchise. Their unwanted offspring are sent to slaughterhouses like so many veal calves.

But animal researchers like Roberta Diaz Brinton and Thomas Clarkson have also made a cottage industry of removing ovaries of sentient mammals to create and examine “menopause” and “perimenopause” in nonhuman animals. In one Clarkson experiment at Wake Forest University Medical Center, the ovaries of four adult female cynomolgus monkeys were removed after treating the animals with a drug that causes ovarian failure for 27 days.

“All experimental evidence from animals says that if you go longer than six post-menopausal years before you begin to give estrogens, you pass the window of opportunity for seeing benefit,” Clarkson told Visions in 2004, an early advocate of the “timing theory” advanced in Gorney’s article. “If women have been deriving prevention benefits, as I and others believe they have, and suddenly there is a 48 percent reduction in prescriptions [for HT], it could have an adverse effect on the extent and severity of cardiovascular disease in the population.”

Still other scientists wonder why mares and monkeys are being sacrificed for a drug known to harm women–and whether women aren’t being treated as lab animals too.

MARTHA ROSENBERG can be reached at:



Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).