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Originally published April 29 2010

HRT drugs based on medical fraud

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Court documents unsealed as part of a lawsuit against drug giant Pfizer reveal how drug companies used deception and fear to manipulate women into taking dangerous hormone replacement therapy (HRT) drugs.

"The information coming out in litigation helps us understand how a belief in a 'protective benefit' of estrogens on the heart was able to spread like wildfire through the medical community," said Jerome L. Avorn of Harvard Medical School.

Pfizer, which purchased Wyeth in October 2009, is being sued by more than 13,000 people who claim that they developed cancer and other health problems after taking HRT drugs. The plaintiffs claim that Wyeth knew of these risks all along, and downplayed them even as it exaggerated the drugs' benefits.

The saga began with the 1966 book Feminine Forever, in which a male gynecologist argued that menopause should be viewed as a degenerative disease and not a natural life phase. Rather than becoming "flabby," "dull-minded" and "desexed" through "the horror of this living decay," wrote Robert A. Wilson, women should be treated with hormones.

HRT drugs became popular until the FDA concluded in 1975 that they might cause cancer of the uterus. They were reintroduced in the mid-1990s, billed as newer and safer. Court documents show that at this point, Wyeth began a campaign to promote the drugs for effects that had never been proven, such as the prevention of heart disease and Alzheimer's. The company used tactics such as ghostwriting journal articles, paying doctors to function as spokespeople, and sponsoring company-written "continuing education" for doctors.

"My doctor said if you don't replace estrogen that you lose at menopause, your risk for certain age-related diseases could increase," said model Lauren Hutton in one Wyeth commercial. A narrator then told viewers that researchers were investigating the connection between menopause and memory loss, sight loss and cardiovascular disease.

HRT drugs were only ever approved for treating symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and mood swings. Studies eventually linked them to an increased risk of breast cancer, heart disease and dementia.

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