Hey there, friends! Today, let's dive into a fascinating journey through the evolution of women's healthcare and how it shaped the lives of aging women. It's a story that takes us from questionable treatments to modern science, with some surprising twists along the way.
The Shocking History of Women's Healthcare
As Martha Rosenberg once noted, the history of women's healthcare is a bit like a wild rollercoaster ride. Back in the day, electroconvulsive therapy, or electroshock treatments, were actually prescribed for menopause in the United States. Yep, you read that right. It tells you a lot about how Western medicine viewed aging women back then. Imagine that – shock therapy for menopause!
Take a look at this 1946 medical journal ad, where amphetamines (speed) were recommended for menopause, along with "electric shock and estrogenic therapy." They even threw in a bit of thorazine. It sounds absurd now, but it was a reality for many women at the time.
The Hormone Replacement Therapy Boom
Fast forward to the 1990s, and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) became all the rage. Millions of women were sold hormones derived from pregnant mare urine, with promises of preventing age-related diseases. But the reality was far from the promise. Women on HRT faced increased risks of heart disease, stroke, pulmonary embolism, and invasive breast cancer. And they were told it would preserve their memory, but it might have caused dementia as it shrank their brains. Ouch!
In 2002, when the truth came out, and HRT prescriptions dropped, rates of breast cancer also went down. Horses, who had been suffering for years, finally got to walk around freely again.
The Rise of Compounded Bioidentical Hormones
After the HRT disaster, the focus shifted to compounded bioidentical hormones, which were derived from plant sources and advertised as safer. Celebrities endorsed them, and many women jumped on the bandwagon. But what did the science say?
Reviews from esteemed organizations like the American College of OB/GYNs, the Mayo Clinic, and the Journal of the International Menopause Society all concluded that bioidentical hormones, despite being "bioidentical," carried the same risks, benefits, and side effects – and that's not a good thing.
The FDA's Troubling Findings
Even worse, the FDA decided to take a closer look. When they analyzed these bioidentical hormones, nearly a third of them failed to match their labels. Imagine buying a bottle of medicine where doses could be all over the place. That's a bit scary, right?
The Least-Biased Source in Medicine
Now, you might be wondering if all these conclusions are influenced by the pharmaceutical industry. It's a valid concern. So, what's the most unbiased source out there? Well, it's The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics. They're like the Consumer Reports of the drug world, and they don't take any money from any source. No grants, donations, or funding – nada. They won't let their work be used for promotional purposes, and they don't accept advertising.
So, what did The Medical Letter say about bioidentical hormones? They delivered the same message: "There is no acceptable evidence that 'bioidentical' hormones are safe or effective. Patients should be discouraged from taking them."