by Martin J Walker
Back in May 2002 the world received the news that the “Women’s Health Initiative,” a study which looked at the benefits and risks of HRT was to be curtailed. This was the largest randomized study ever to look at combined hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in healthy postmenopausal women. The study was stopped because researchers found an increased risk of breast cancer. They also found that women receiving the estrogen/progesterone combination were at higher risk for coronary heart disease (CHD) and blood clots.(1) The world received the news and women acted with approximately 65 per cent of women on hormone therapy stopping HRT.(2)
In his new book, HRT Licensed to Kill and Maim, author Martin Walker takes us into the world of the unheard women who have suffered and whose lives are forever damaged by the use and abuse of hormone replacement therapy. One of these brave women is Maggie Tuttle. Tuttle is a lifetime campaigner for women’s rights. Maggie had been prescribed HRT for a hormone imbalance and from the beginning of her therapy had intolerable pains in her head. What should have been diagnosed as a severe allergy to HRT after she began suffering from itching and bleeding on her legs and pubis was met with the prescription of more drugs and a barrage of unnecessary medical tests. Maggie ceased taking HRT in 1997 after thirteen years of HRT turmoil.
Throughout her long battle with HRT, Maggies’ doctors repeatedly denied that HRT was the cause of her illhealth. Her trust and naiviety can best be explained by her years of conditioning in regard to the wonders of the medical profession and science in general.As she coped with her own now well- entrenched illness, Maggie sought out the experiences of other similarly damaged women and established the Menopause Helpline. It is from the experiences of these courageous women that HRT Licensed to Kill and Maim takes its raw data.
Martin Walker blends the women’s stories with the history of the Menopause Industry which began after the Second World War when women were being prescribed synthetic oestrogen replacement therapy as the way to produce a successful pregnancy and for other female ailments. By the 1960’s pharmaceutical companies had begun to target the menopausal market. The message was that normal ageing was a problem and that all women needed to be rescued from it ravages.
Over the decades HRT has become a drug for which the need has been created, rather than it being a therapy that we really need. Menopause is simply the cessation of the menses and like all other periods of life it is a natural process that women must pass through rather than it being some pathological condition for which we must be cured. In spite of the fact that exogenous oestrogens have been linked to cancers and other health conditions for many years, profit-hungry drug companies have continued to market HRT for the most trivial of reasons with major long term side effects.
One such condition which catered to the need for HRT was the discovery of osteoporosis. Health researcher, Sherrill Sellman writes: As a disease, it emerged out of obscurity only two decades ago to become a concern for women throughout the industrialised world. Advertising campaigns in the media and fact sheets in doctors' waiting rooms and pharmacies continually warn women of the dangers of disappearing bone mass. The marketing hype announces that one woman in two over the age of 60 is likely to crumble from an osteoporotic fracture.(3)
Shirley was one of the 10,000 callers to Maggie Tuttle’s helpline. When Shirley was fifty-two, she went to her GP to collect a repeat prescription for Thyroxine. During the consultation her GP told her that as she was of small build she might be at risk for osteoporosis and that she would benefit from HRT. Very soon after commencing hormone therapy Shirley began to lose energy and was unable to even get out of bed. After years of suffering and research, Shirley discovered that because she was taking HRT she should have been given increased thyroxine. But her doctors didn’t tell her this!
What started as mere speculation on her GP’s part concerning a condition she may or may never have to worry about meant that Shirley faced years of unnecessary illhealth.
What have we learned from this period of women’s health history?
Can we be content that 65% of women stopped taking HRT after the results of the Women’s Health Initiative study were published in 2002?
Unfortunately the chilling message soon faded and two years later there were reports that one in four women who stopped HRT were now back on it.
Martin Walker’s book HRT Licensed to Kill and Maim needs to be on every woman’s bedside table.
Published by Slingshot Publications London 2006