Hormone prescriptions drop after study linking them to heart disease
Wednesday, January 7th 2004, 12:00 am
News On 6
CHICAGO (AP) _ Prescriptions for hormone supplements have plunged by one-third since a study was abruptly halted because of evidence that the pills raise the risk of breast cancer, heart disease and other illnesses in postmenopausal women, an analysis found.
In the year after the July 2002 announcement about the risks from estrogen-progestin pills, U.S. prescriptions for most types of hormone therapy dropped 38 percent, reversing a seven-year trend, according to the report in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.
Based on data through July, the researchers estimate that prescriptions for hormone treatments including estrogen-progestin pills will total 57 million in 2003, compared with 91 million in 2001.
About 6 million American women used the combined pills in 2001, and an estimated 14,500 cases of heart disease, breast cancer, stroke and blood clots were due to estrogen-progestin use that year, the researchers said.
They estimated that the number of such illnesses dropped to 6,500 in 2003, a 56 percent decline from 2001.
``A very large population uses these drugs and has been positively affected by the changes in practice that have come about,'' said Dr. Randall Stafford of Stanford University's Prevention Research Center, an author of the new analysis.
The increased health risks found in the landmark study were relatively small, and some doctors say hormones still are appropriate for some women. They can relieve such symptoms of menopause as hot flashes, vaginal dryness and thinning bones.
Stafford co-wrote a separate report in JAMA showing a slower, more typical response by doctors to negative results from a 2000 study on a drug used to treat high blood pressure. The drug, an alpha blocker called doxazosin, was found to be much less effective than older, cheaper diuretics.
Previous research also has found that prescribing practices often do not change much after publication of research on drugs with either positive or negative results, Stafford said.
That is partly because study results usually are not as intensely publicized as the hormone study results were, Stafford said.