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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
for this story include: http://www.nytimes.com