Weapons of Hormonal Therapy

No one is chanting, "Wyeth lied; millions died," but the analogies between hormone replacement therapy and the war in Iraq are many.

The reasons for doing it keep changing. (Mood swings? heart disease? memory loss? osteoporosis? because we have a lot of pills to sell?)

The supporting intelligence was flawed.

The "solution" is worse than the disease and causes the problems it’s supposed to fix.

And millions of dollars are being thrown after a bad decision–in Wyeth’s case, in court.

Look at some of the "evidence" Wyeth planted to make the case for the universal need for women to take Premarin and Prempro.

"As part of a 1998 American Heart Association campaign sponsored by Wyeth, we received a twenty-two-page pamphlet titled, ‘Take Charge! A Woman’s Guide to Fighting Heart Disease,’" write former McCall’s editors Hilary Macht Felgran and Ann Hettinger in the Columbia Journalism Review1 "Loss of estrogen was listed first among heart-disease risk factors. A giant blurb stated: ‘Estrogen replacement helps protect against coronary heart disease risk.; Estrogen’s then-proven risks, like endometrial cancer and blood clots, were never mentioned."[1]

Wyeth also planted heart disease non-truths–HRT increases not decreases heart disease risk [2]— in "The Pharmacist’s Guide to Women and Menopause" and "The Good Housekeeping Guide to Women’s Health" according to testimony at Wyeth’s first HRT trial this month in Little Rock, AK. [3]

And told its sales reps to "promote Prempro for Alzheimer’s" [4] despite the fact that HRT has been shown to increase not decrease Alzheimer’s risk. [5] And despite a letter a Wyeth rep wrote to company executives in 2000 stating, "The desire for increased sales has overruled our company’s ethical responsibility to promote our products safely." [6]

Wyeth Chairman and CEO Robert Essner even told his reps at a Prempro launch party, Enron-style, the company was creating an "HRT revolution" that would keep women on the drug from menopause to death and that there should be "no boundaries, no limits to your selling effort," according to trial documents. [7]

But then things turned for the coalition of the prescription pad.

A group of malcontents–okay, the government–published early findings from the Women’s Health Initiative study and suddenly women didn’t want to take Premarin and Prempro anymore. Just because it doubled their risk of breast cancer, heart disease and stroke!

Premarin-related sales were practically halved. [8] A manufacturing plant in Rouses Point, N.Y, had to be closed and 1,200 jobs phased out. [9] And instead of pep talks to salesmen Essner found himself in crisis management talks to the press and telling it it was "sensationalizing" the study. [10]

Now Wyeth is facing 4500 lawsuits from women like mastectomy survivor Linda Reeves of Benton AK whose trial just ended.

Reeves, 67, was kept on Prempro and Premarin for eight years to "prevent osteoporosis" by her gynecologist, Dr. David Caldwell, a paid speaker for Wyeth. [11] She lost her case.

Wyeth lawyer Jane Bockus contended there were ample warning to doctors and patients and that HRT was not supposed to be used for more than a year without a one year follow-up. [12]

But court documents show Caldwell stands by the treatment he gave Reeves and still prescribes Prempro. [13]

In other words, bring ’em on.


[1]. "The wonder drug that wasn’t" July Aug 2002

[2]. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/whi/

[3]. Arkansas Democrat Gazette Sept 9, 2006

[4]. Star-Ledger, The (Newark, NJ) Aug 13, 2006 Wyeth goes to trial over Prempro

[5]. Newsday May 28, 2003 Hormone Therapy Hazard Exposed / Study: Alzheimer’s risk doubled on Prempro

[6]. Ventura County Star (CA) July 30, 2006

[7]. Dow Jones Newswires Philadelphia Sept 13 2006

[8]. The Record (Hackensack, NJ) Oct 12, 2005

[9]. New York Times July 24, 2002

[10]. AP Sept 1, 2006

[11]. AP Sept 15, 2006

[12]. AP July 25, 2006

[13]. Reuters Sept 11, 2006