Hormonetimeline: 60 Years of Hormone Therapy

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FROM ELIXIRS TO SITCOMS

In the 60 years that hormone replacement therapy has been available, it has drawn both yea-and naysayers, each with some claim to scientific proof.

1942 Premarin, the nation’s first hormone replacement therapy, hits the market.
1952 An early study of estrogen’s effect on the mind shows hormone treatment may help enhance verbal memory in elderly women.
1959 JAMA article touts benefits of prolonged estrogen therapy. A 25-year study of 113 women shows estrogen protects bones and relieves menopausal symptoms. The authors add: “Fear that breast and cervical cancer may result from this therapy appears to be unfounded.”
1962 Robert Wilson reports in JAMA that taking estrogen during menopause reduces breast and genital cancers.
1966 In the bestselling Feminine Forever, Wilson recommends estrogen as the “cure” for “the tragedy of menopause.” Women who use the drugs, he argues, “will be much more pleasant to live with and will not become dull and unattractive.” Later, the FDA says that Wilson’s recommendations go beyond approved use and that it will no longer accept his data. Wilson’s studies are allegedly sponsored by several drug manufacturers.
1969 A new runaway bestseller, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* by David Reuben, promotes estrogen as a menopausal cure-all. Without estrogen, he writes, “a woman comes as close as she can to being a man. Increased facial hair, deepened voice, obesity, and the decline of breasts and female genitalia all contribute to a masculine appearance.”
1970 Medical journals are running the Wyeth advertisements–”Treat her with Premarin. Keep her on Premarin.” Almost 14 million prescriptions are dispensed.
1972 All in the Family‘s Edith Bunker, 47, shocks her husband and the nation with the news that she’s menopausal. Archie’s response: “If you’re gonna have a change of life, you gotta do it right now. I’m gonna give you just 30 seconds.” The groundbreaking episode wins an Emmy.
1973 A clinical trial of men taking Premarin to prevent heart attacks and strokes is stopped when it turns out that the subjects were having more heart attacks and blood clots.Harper’s Bazaar declares: “There doesn’t seem to be a sexy thing estrogen can’t and won’t do to keep you flirtatiously feminine for the rest of your days … a real package deal that spruces up your vagina.”
1974 More than 30 million prescriptions for estrogen are written every year. About half of all menopausal women are using HRT for a median length of five years.
1975 Two studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine show that post-menopausal estrogen use increases endometrial cancer risk four to 14 times.– Premarin is the fifth most frequently prescribed drug in the United States.– Anthropologist Margaret Mead finds a silver lining. “There is no more creative force in the world than the menopausal woman with zest,” she says.
1976 The first study showing a link between menopausal estrogen and breast cancer is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
1980 An article by R. Don Gambrell in Obstetrics and Gynocology reports that adding progestin to estrogen led to a decline in endometrial cancer.
1982 In Fertility and Sterility, Gambrell writes that the estrogen-progestin combo may help osteoporosis and have “protective effects against cardiovascular disease.” But in Cancer Research, several experts say menopausal hormones are a major factor in cancer.
1985 A Framingham Heart Study report shows 1,234 women taking estrogen had more cardiovascular events than women who did not use hormones. But the Nurses Health Study, based on questionnaires sent to 121,964 female nurses ages 30 to 55, concludes that among those who took estrogen, the risk of coronary heart disease dropped.
1989 A Swedish study of 23,244 women who had used estrogen or estrogen plus progestin published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows a slight increase in breast cancer among those who took estrogen. Further, when women switched to combination HRT, their breast cancer risk more than doubled.
1990-95 Premarin is the most frequently dispensed prescription drug in the U.S.
1992 Big books, The Silent Passage by Gail Sheehy and The Change by Germaine Greer, hit the stores. Sheehy’s bestseller looks at what is lost while Greer thinks it fine for women to give up sex (particularly with “fat, beefy, beery, smelly” middle-aged men) and embrace the “crone” years.– On prime time, menopause is such a nonshocker that when Golden Girls’ Sophia cracks, “You grow a beard, Dorothy. … Believe me, I woke up one morning, I looked like Arafat,” all she gets is a laugh.
1995 Prempro, the first estrogen-plus-progestin HRT pill, is approved by the FDA.
1998 The first major placebo-controlled trial of HRT shows that the hormones do not help women who have already had a heart attack and, in fact, caused more heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular events.
2000 The Women’s Health Initiative tells study participants that some women are experiencing heart attacks and strokes and offers them the chance to drop out.– Model and Wyeth posterwoman Lauren Hutton is featured in a Parade magazine cover story saying that if she could keep only one piece of her health and beauty regimen, it would be estrogen.
2001 More than 11 million women use a Premarin product.
2002 The Women’s Health Initiative combined HRT study is stopped because of continuing heart events and an increased risk of invasive breast cancer. Doctors are urged to prescribe HRT only for short-term relief.– A study of nearly 1,900 women suggests that HRT may help forestall Alzheimer’s.– Soul diva Patti LaBelle (paid by Wyeth) sings the praises of HRT.
2020 Some 60 million American women will be in or through menopause.
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