It is clear that the decline of hormone therapy use has saved lives.
Recently released research from the University of Wisconsin puts the number of women who will be spared invasive breast cancer this year at 6,000. Based on the study done by the Women’s Health Initiative, the numbers of saved lives are probably closer to 20,000 per year.
Between 2001 and 2004 we saw a reduction in hormone replacement therapy (HRT) prescriptions from 61 million to 21 million. Based on the findings of the Women’s Health Initiative study, there was a 25% increase in breast cancers for women using Prempro and, although the manufacturer, Wyeth, used enormous efforts to obfuscate the findings, lives were saved through the truth finally coming out after 50 years.
What efforts did Wyeth use to hide the dangers of HRT and how did the truth ultimately come out?
Wyeth had billions of dollars at stake. It had been marketing HRT compounds since the late 1940’s. They sponsored studies; they developed “ghost written” journal articles; and they promoted HRT with significant vigor. These activities took place while manufacturers made little or no effort to disclose the dangerous complications of these drugs.
Wyeth developed significant marketing campaigns in an effort to boost the use and sales for Prempro. Wyeth documents discuss plans to dismiss, distract, neutralize, and downplay the findings of the Women’s Health Initiative Study. As a result of evidence presented at trials, Wyeth has been described as “truly despicable”; without any “concern for the health of” the consumer; and that “they make money and people die”.
In 1972, a film produced by manufacturer, Ayerst, exemplifies the way manufacturers played on the public’s fears to create demand for HRT:
“The physical alterations that are associated with the menopause may induce emotional changes. When a woman develops hot flashes, sweats, wrinkles on her face, she is quite concerned that she is losing her youth — that she may indeed be losing her husband.”
Manufacturers touted HRT drugs as good for menopausal women; a preventative for cardiovascular problems; a treatment for depression; and good for wrinkles. HRT marketing was a thrust to find an illness that would sell HRT drugs, rather than a solution for a specific disease in mind; the drug manufacturers were searching for a disease to apply it to.
In 1962, Robert Wilson, published a book titled, “Feminine Forever”. In that publication, Dr. Wilson recommended estrogen for menopause and indicated “women will be more pleasant to live with and will not become dull and unattractive”. Dr. Wilson reportedly had strong financial ties with HRT manufacturers.
The “call to arms” for injured women really did not happen until after lawsuits began to be filed in 2001. During the investigation process, documents began to come to light, which demonstrated knowledge on the part of HRT manufacturers and it became abundantly clear that profits over consumer safety was the choice being made by most manufacturers.
So far, 15 trials have taken place and more are to follow. Verdicts amounting to millions of dollars are being rendered against Wyeth for its part in making billions of dollars from the marketing scheme surrounding HRT drugs, such as Prempro. Justice is slowly being delivered to injured women who lost their lives or suffered horribly disfiguring injuries. HRT manufacturers spent 50 years marketing HRT’s to the public, making billions of dollars, Lady Justice is trying to catch up.