Hormone Replacement Increases Heart Risk

If you're taking hormone replacements, they may be doing more harm than good. That's the indication of a study recently conducted in Toronto. Conventional medical wisdom states that hormone replacement therapy reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women. However, a recent large-scale clinical trial, the Heart and Estrogen/Progestin Replacement Study (HERS), involving 2,763 women concluded that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is of no benefit.

Now Dr John Blakely, MD, of the Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, suggests that not only does HRT not reduce cardiovascular risk, it actually increases it. Dr Blakely points out that HERS found that women on hormone replacement therapy had 50 per cent more cardiac events during the first year of treatment than did women not on the treatment. In later years the surviving women on hormone replacement therapy tended to have fewer events, but Dr Blakely estimates that it would take at least 10 years before HRT-treated women gained just one month of event-free survival as compared to non-treated women.

Dr Blakely goes on to say that women with or at high risk of coronary heart disease should not start hormone replacement therapy and there is a risk that women without heart disease might experience even greater net harm from it. --Archives of Internal Medicine, October 23, 2000

Diet Pills Could Cause Stroke

A team of medical researchers from 43 American hospitals reports that women using products containing phenylpropanolamine (a drug used to treat asthma and allergies) are at an increased risk for hemorrhagic stroke (rupture of an artery wall in the brain).

Phenylpropanolamine is found in appetite suppressants (diet pills) and in such cold and cough remedies as Contac Cold 12 Hour Relief, Coricidin D, Triaminicin, Dimetapp and Sinutab.

The just-completed study included 702 men and women between the ages of 18 and 49 years who had suffered a stroke and 1,376 control subjects matched for age, sex and race. The researchers found that the incidence of stroke among the women who had used diet pills within three days preceding the stroke was almost 17 times higher than in the women who had not used them. The incidence of stroke among the women who had used phenylpropanolamine-containing cold and cough remedies for the first time in the preceding 24 hours was three times higher than among the women who had not.

An analysis in the men showed no increased risk of a hemorrhagic stroke in association with the use of phenylpropanolamine-containing cold and cough remedies. None of the men reported use of appetite suppressants. --New England Journal of Medicine, December 21, 2000

Cancer Institute to Fund Studies

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) in the US is funding a study of the use of homeopathic remedies in the treatment of cancer. The study is based on the work of Drs Prasanta and Pratip Banerji of Calcutta, India who have had considerable success in treating cancer patients, particularly lung cancer patients, with homeopathic remedies standardized to particular types of cancer.

"We want to proactively solicit submissions from complementary and alternative medicine practitioners who feel they have a successful approach to cancer treatment," says Jeffrey D. White, MD, director of the NCI's Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The NCI began their Best Case Series Program in 1991 in order to provide research funding to practising medical doctors who believe they have developed a viable therapy for cancer.

The Institute has already funded a study by Nicholas Gonzalez, MD, to evaluate the use of individualized vegetarian diets, vitamin and mineral supplements, oral pancreatic enzymes and detoxification with coffee enemas and liver flushes in the treatment of pancreatic cancer. A preliminary study found that patients treated with the Gonzalez regimen lived three times longer than expected (17 months versus five months).

The NCI is now funding a much larger clinical trial aimed at comparing the success rate of the Gonzalez protocol with that of standard chemotherapy using gemcitabine (a drug used to enter the DNA of cancer cells to slow replication). --Journal of the National Cancer Institute, October 4, 2000

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By Hans Larsen

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Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was a type of treatment where the body is given hormones to prevent or treat certain medical conditions (such as treating symptoms of menopause in women and preventing osteoporosis). The hormones used in HRT are synthetic hormones, which means they are created in a laboratory (rather than by the body), but they act like natural hormones once inside the body.