Thursday, July 17, 2008

Garden Variety Estrogen

"Estrogen is estrogen," my sister says matter-of-factly. The voice of authority has spoken. And I know that I cannot convince her otherwise.

Sarah works for a very successful group of family physicians in Williamsburg, VA. Steeped in conventional pharmaceutical wisdom, the docs there make the same mistake docs everywhere make: they trust their drugs reps to give them the skinny on the latest drug research. And then they pass that wisdom onto their staff and patients. To think any differently about this system of information is to be called alternative.

Problem is, those companies perform their own latest drug research. Data is routinely skewed, and then the FDA puts their stamp of approval on it. Why? Because the FDA receives 80% of funding from testing drugs.

Perhaps a slight conflict of interest, but I digress. . .

Estrogen is not estrogen. There is no such thing as a garden variety hormone.

HRT, hormone replacement therapy, uses synthetic estrogen. The same is true with progesterone. The drugs Prempro and Premarin were the two culprits identified in the 2002 Women's Health Initiative studies. Horses' hormones were used as the foundation for these two drugs. (The manner in which these horses were used and abused is deplorable, but that's another post)

Although similar, equine hormones are not the same as human hormones. Still, drug companies insisted there was no viable alternative. There was and is an alternative, just not a patented one.

Pharmaceutical companies developed synthetic hormones so that the drugs could be patented. Their hope was that this slight difference, creating synthetic hormones, would not make a real difference in women's bodies.

But, time has proven otherwise. Escalating evidence of the dangers of HRT persist. And drug companies recite the litany of their safety. But if "estrogen is estrogen," then why is there such controversy over HRT? And why are drug companies lobbying to have bio-identical hormones removed from the market?

You guessed it; the money tree.

Bio-identical hormone treatment, or BHT, has been around for years. But most practitioners are unfamiliar with the treatment. Drug companies have done a thorough job in skewing physicians, and their patients, toward their risky line-up of products.

Bio-identical simply means that the structure of the hormone is perfectly identical to the hormone produced in women's bodies. BHT is natural and our bodies can metabolize the hormones, as they were designed to do. Sounds good so far, doesn't it?

The problem is, drug companies can't patent it. So they're on a rampage to outlaw it. Again, unable to stem the fallout from WHI's initial study, pharmaceutical companies have put their own spin on BHT. With the new Climara patch, companies have created a patented sticky transdermal hormone delivery system. The estrogen cannot be patented because it is identical to the human estradiol.

And there's the rub. Isn't the market big enough for both products, bio-identical and Climara? Evidently not. The drug industry is hell-bent on outlawing BHT.

Like a spoiled child, they don't want to share. The malarkey posted by drug companies that there is no alternative to synthetic hormone treatment is ludicrous. Especially when it falls on the heels of their introduction to Climara. A desperate attempt, at best, to continue their stranglehold over our health, drug companies are waging all out war for control over our bodies.

We all need a safety blanket. We want to believe our doctors have our best interests at heart. I want to believe that. I love my doctor. But when it comes to drug counseling, I do my homework.

I also consult my Naturopathic Doctor. If there is any way I can avert the use of prescription drugs, I take that exit first. If not, I explore the risks.

I'd love to believe in a magic pill. But the only magic here is the massive effort by drug companies to pull the wool over our eyes. Hence, my sister's na�ve statement about hormone replacement.

The bottom line is: estrogen is not estrogen. And it's your job to question everything, including this article. Find the answers you can live with. And remember, money only grows on pharmaceutical trees.

Spa owner for seven years, Susan has a passion for healthy living. She regularly writes for her own spa on health & wellness issues facing women today.