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Bioidentical hormone therapy: Ineffective, dangerous, costly

Although condemned by many medical societies and warned against by overseas regulatory bodies, bioidentical hormone therapy is still being prescribed in Australia through a combination of false advertising, outdated fears of alternatives and a lack of regulation. Several menopause experts, including President of the International Menopause Society Dr Susan Davis, have recently warned of the potential harms the treatment can cause.

The treatment was developed as a result of a 2002 study on hormone replacement therapy which flagged it as a breast cancer risk. This study is now known to be misleading, but many women and medical practitioners alike are still wary of HRT and therefore willing to try alternatives.

Although marketed as a ‘natural’ alternative, BHT is synthetically produced from the same plants as nonbioidentical hormones. Claims that the products biologically match naturally occurring hormones apply equally to products like HRT, Dr Davis has stated.

The most controversial claim is that the treatment is individually tailored, which experts reject as impossible. Being individually compounded only serves to make dosing more unpredictable, as well as meaning the treatment avoids regulatory scrutiny.

The known potential harms of BRT which Dr Davis has flagged are increased risk of uterine cancer and excessive estrogen dosage. Also of concern is the possibility that the treatment is being prescribed to women with breast cancer, which can stimulate cancer cells. Assessing other risks is difficult given that the treatment is privately prescribed.

Dr Davis has called for greater education on the risks of BHT, as well as for greater regulation. The Therapeutic Goods Administration has no guidelines or warnings about the treatment as it’s not an approved therapy. The Pharmacy Board of Australia and Pharmacy Guild of Australia have a guidelines stating pharmacists should “compound a medicine only when an appropriate commercial product is unavailable or unsuitable” but don’t enforce this guideline.

 

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Source: ABC News