HRT When will they ban this dangerous drug

The European Medicines Agency has taken diabetes drug, Avandia (also known as Rosiglitazone, off the market after the UK drug safety committee called for it to be withdrawn.  On the market for ten years, Avandia at one point was one of the best selling drugs in the world with sales peaking at a mere $5 billion. UK Doctors wrote over one million prescriptions last year. However the British Medical Journal called for its withdrawal on safety grounds and only recently clinical trials showed that the risks of heart attack amongst users rose between 20 and 40 per cent. Various interested parties had claimed that heart attack risk was anyway higher in people with diabetes, but the evidence against the drug ’slowly mounted and became overwhelming’ according to the Medical bodies supposed to protect us all from these sorts of dangers.

Contrast this with HRT. In 2002 a 5-year research study was halted in the USA after women taking HRT were shown to have higher risk of heart attacks, strokes and breast cancer. Whilst the group of women taking only ’synthetic oestrogen’ HRT had a 26 per cent increase in breast cancer, the group taking a mixed ’synthetic oestrogen/progestin’ pill had a doubling of breast cancer! Warnings were issued in the USA, not for breast cancer, but for the increased heart problems. The trial continued for the group taking the oestrogen only pill; the trial for the mixed pill was ended.

The media comment was huge. So much so that millions of American women stopped taking the drug. Within just three years, the number of breast cancer cases in the US had fallen by 7 per cent. In Cancer Watch we have covered UK Medical concerns that ’The risks of HRT outweigh the benefits’, and even Cancer Research UK talking about oestrogen’s ability to drive cancer and thus fears for people taking HRT. The German Health minister even called HRT ’the new Thalidomide’.

But what happened to the drug? Nothing.

Is there a similar ’mounting body of evidence?’ Well, certainly, the US research was not a one-off. The Boston Nurses Study back in the mid-nineties showed a 26 per cent increased risk for breast cancer and HRT. Reanalysis of the figures showed increased risks for other cancers, rising with the length of time a woman spent on the drug. Heart problems have often been associated with the drug. The UK Million Women study also came up with an increased risk figure for breast cancer of 26 per cent.

The problem is that, like Avandia, HRT is very big business and various ’experts’ (some genuine and others with vested interests) then muddy the waters.

Now a Canadian Study has replicated the American results. Between 2002 and 2004, the scares over HRT resulted in just 4.9 per cent of Canadian women taking HRT, falling from the figure of 12.7 per cent. At the same time invasive breast cancer rates fell 9.6 per cent.

However the waters are still muddied because after a few years the cancer rates began to rise again (they are rising anyway!) allowing the researchers to conclude that HRT had not ’caused’ invasive breast cancer, but merely brought it forward! So that’s alright then.

No mention was made of the heart attack and stroke risks.

HRT is regularly prescribed after menopause to relieve the symptoms of hot flushes, mood changes and night sweats.

As Peter Walsh, Chief Exec of the patient safety charity ’Action against Medical Accidents’ said of Avandia, We need a review of how medicines are regulated in the UK and Europe as a whole. We fear the pharmaceutical companies have far more influence than they should have Surely not!

Interestingly The UK Commission on Human Medicines had previously uttered the concerned phrase about Avandia that ’the risks outweigh its benefits’.

Worse in America, the FDA does not even have the legal powers to suspend a drug it has previously approved, so it can only add some restrictions to the use of Avandia.

And now a word or two about those dodgy vitamins, natural compounds and the massive UK market worth about $500 million the quack busters are always shouting about .

Chris Woollams Quack Watch
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