Synthetic Hormone Nightmare
Shirley is 52, and suffering from menopausal symptoms of hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia and mood disturbance. The next chance she had, Shirley asked her doctor for bioidentical hormones. Instead, her doctor offered her a prescription for Lexapro, an SSRI antidepressant. Shirley declined the prescription and ran out the door crying all the way home. A few days later, Shirley was sitting in my office asking, Why wont my doctor give me what I want, bioidentical hormones?
Ghost Writing A Shocking Medical Scandal
I explained to Shirley that her doctors opinion is shaped by misleading information in medical journals corrupted by a technique called medical ghostwriting, a shocking scandal uncovered by Senator Grassleys Committee.(1) In this sinister practice, the prestigious name of an academic MD opinion leader appears as author. However, unknown to the reader, the article is actually written by the drug companys paid-for-hire writers. Grassley discovered that sixty articles on womens hormones were ghostwritten, downplaying the adverse effects of synthetic hormones, and casting doubts about bioidentical hormones. Medical ghostwriting is scientific misconduct and fraud which harms society and corrupts the medical literature.
A Brief History of Synthetic Hormones Re-Living the Nightmare
Lets review a short history of synthetic hormone replacement as brought to you by the Drug Industry. (2) Many people have forgotten about the disaster of DES, Diethylstilbestrol, the first synthetic hormone invented in 1938. This carcinogenic, monster hormone was approved by the FDA and given to millions of women from 1940 until it was banned in 1975 when it was shown carcinogenic. The first report of cervical cancer in the daughters of DES treated women was published in April 1971 in the New England Journal of Medicine.(3-4)
Next, the Drug Industry invented Premarin, a horse estrogen isolated from the urine of pregnant horses. Available since FDA approval in 1942, Premarin has caused an estimated 15,000 cases of endometrial cancer, representing the largest epidemic of serious iatrogenic disease ever reported.(5-8) One might think this would be the end of any drug. However Premarin was promptly rehabilitated with the addition of another synthetic hormone, a progestin, to prevent endometrial cancer. Thus, in 1995, Prempro was born, a synthetic hormone pill containing both Premarin (the horse estrogen) and Provera (the progestin). Again, this was FDA approved, thought safe and handed out freely to millions of women.
However, storm clouds soon appeared on the horizon when four large scale studies showed increased breast cancer and heart disease from this estrogen-progestin combination pill. The Breast Cancer Detection Demonstration Project, published in 2000, showed an eight fold increase in breast cancer for estrogen-progestin users.(9) The Swedish Record Review, published in 1996, had a fourfold increase in breast cancer with progestin use.(10) The Million Woman study, published in Lancet in 2003, had a fourfold increase in breast cancer for estrogen-progestin combination users compared to estrogen alone users.(11) The brakes came on to this synthetic hormone experiment in 2002 with the JAMA publication of the Womens Health Initiative (WHI), an NIH funded study terminated early because of increased breast cancer and heart disease in the estrogen-progestin users.(12)