Women assured hormone replacement therapy is safe despite rare risks

Henrietta Strickland
January 12, 2019

"These numbers are for the general population so if a woman is at an increased risk - due to cardiovascular disease, cancer or kidney disease, for example - these numbers will be much higher for her".

The drugs are used to relieve symptoms of the menopause such as hot flushes and night sweats and can be prescribed in pill-form, skin patches, gels or creams.

Most HRT tablets were found to be associated with nine extra cases of venous thromboembolism - blood clots in the veins - in every 10,000 women per year.

HRT pills more than double the risk of deadly blood clots, a study suggests.

Sydney GP Dr Julia Menzies say the study gives doctors a more detailed picture of the risks.

She said the study reassured women that blood clots were still an uncommon HRT complication.

The researchers also took into account other potentially influencing factors, such as lifestyle, family history of blood clots and any underlying conditions linked to blood clots.

For tablet treatments, the risk was found to differ for two types of oestrogens.

The new findings, published in the British Medical Journal, show that equine oestrogen tablets, such as the Premarin brand, carry a higher risk than synthetic oestrogen.

The study found that no transdermal HRT formulations, such as patches and gels, were associated with increased risk of VTE - and that this was consistent across different regimens - but that these were underused compared to the "overwhelming" preference for oral drugs.

The results of the study could also be helpful to agencies such as NICE in the development of new best-practice guidelines.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, who chairs the Royal College of Global Positioning System, said patients should not panic as more research is needed to prove that the tablets cause clots.

Researcher Dr Yana Vinogradova, of the Nottingham School of Medicine, said: 'Different tablets are associated with different risks of developing blood clots'.

"It has also confirmed that risks of thrombosis for patients using HRT treatments other than tablets is very low".

"This lower risk has been known for more than ten years and - although patches or gels may not be acceptable in some circumstances - it was surprising to find that only 20 per cent of HRT prescriptions to date have been for non-oral treatments".

This article has been republished from materials provided by the University of Nottingham.

The latest findings on the hormone therapy, which replaces oestrogen lost naturally with ageing, come from a study of more than 470,000 women.

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