June 8, 2010
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, adds to a very slowly growing body of evidence that could rehabilitate the use of HRT, which plummeted in 2002 after the publication of the Women’s Health Initiative study, which found an increased risk of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, strokes and other health problems from hormone therapy.
Sales of U.S. market leader Wyeth’s combined estrogen-progestin therapy Prempro have fallen by about 50 percent since 2001 to around $1 billion a year. Wyeth is now owned by Pfizer.
But many experts who studied HRT said there was some evidence that if women took a lower dose and if they took HRT by means other than a pill, the risks might not be as high.
Samy Suissa of McGill University in Montreal and colleagues used Britain’s national medical database to pick out 15,700 women over 50 who had strokes and nearly 60,000 who had not.
Women who had used low-dose transdermal patches to get their HRT had almost precisely the same risk of stroke — very slightly less, in fact — than women who used no HRT.
“I think that these are promising findings,” said Dr. JoAnn Manson of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, who helped lead the Women’s Health Initiative and who was not involved in Suissa’s study.
Suissa’s team found that 7.7 percent of stroke patients had been given a prescription for some form of HRT within the previous year of their stroke. And 6.9 percent of women who did not have a stroke got some form of HRT.