A recent study from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), the large study that originally showed no reduction in heart attack with use of estrogens in postmenopausal females, has just published a new study.
In this new effort, women who took Premarin (horse estogens) had up to 61% lower CT heart scan scores . This new study was confined to the women from the original WHI study who had entered the study between the ages of 50-59 years (average 55 years old), since this was the significant subgroup of women who actually showed a reduction in heart attack risk, whereas other groups showed no benefit or a slightly increased risk.
For a full discussion of this fascinating result, see the Track Your Plaque report, Can estrogen reduce CT heart scan scores? at http://healthcare.gov/library/fl_06-017estrogen.asp. (This report is open to both Track Your Plaque Members and non-Members.)
I truly wish that the issues surrounding female hormone replacement were clearer. This new perspective adds just another interesting twist on a strategy that too many people, in my view, dismissed too readily with the initial WHI results.
To add to an already confusing situation, the WHI study was sponsored by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Premarin, and many of the investigators participating in the study obtained financial compensation from Wyeth. On the one hand, we have to give credit to the company and the investigators for publishing the initial study that panned the effects of Premarin. On the other hand, it makes any positive data somewhat suspect, particularly since there is a far less costly and probably superior preparation called human estrogens.
Incidentally, Wyeth is also behind the maddening FDA petition to prevent "compounding" pharmacies from dispensing human hormones like estrogen unless made by a drug manufacturer. They hide behind claims of concerns over safety. Nonsense. This is pure profiteering and protection of their enormously profitable franchise and has nothing to do with public safety. If there were genuine concerns that the compounding pharmacies, around for decades with an excellent reputation, pose safety issues, why not just lobby for improved oversite?
If only we had data like WHI that used human estrogens and human progesterone. I suspect that we'd see bigger, better effects with less of the ill effects peculiar to the cross-species use of Premarin and the synethetic progestin, Provera.