Back and Forth Again

Jan 24, 2006 2:17pm

I didn’t plan this. There’s yet another medical reversal in the headlines today, this one about hormone-replacement therapy for women beginning menopause. Millions of women stopped after a 2002 study, called the Women’s Health Initiative, said hormone replacement raised the risk of heart attacks, strokes, breast cancer and a host of other ills.

Well, now there’s a paper in the Journal of Women’s Health, saying hormone replacement is probably a good thing—reducing the risk of heart disease by 30 percent—as long as you’re young enough actually to be going through menopause.

Turns out the women in the first study were, on average, 63 years old, a decade or more past menopause. The second study used a different—younger—group of women.

"It may help to untangle some of the confusion," said Dr. JoAnn Manson of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, who worked on both studies.

But there we go again. I can’t blame people for asking, "Are you sure this time?"

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Diet Pill

While we’re at it, you may have seen the stories yesterday about Xenical, the prescription weight-loss pill. An FDA advisory panel recommended allowing it to be sold, in a weaker form, over the counter.

The unfortunate truth about Xenical is that while it helped people lose weight, it didn’t help a lot. Users lost perhaps five percent of their body weight; that’s a 200-lb. person losing ten pounds. If that’s all you get from the full-strength version, what will the diluted one do?

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