Widespread media coverage contributes to rapid decline in HRT prescribing

The number of women prescribed Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) fell rapidly in the Netherlands after widespread media coverage of the UK's Million Women Study, according to a paper in the December issue of the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

However a study with similar findings, which received hardly any media attention in the country when it was published the previous year, had little impact on prescribing rates.

Researchers led by a team from the University of Groningen looked at dispensing data from women aged 45-69 who had received at least one prescription for HRT.

The research covered a total study population of 233,000 women over the four-year period between 2000 and 2003 just over 58,000 a year.

They discovered that prescribing levels fell suddenly after August 2003 when the Million Women Study was published. By the end of that year HRT was being used by 8.7 per cent of women aged 45-69 compared with 10 per cent a year earlier.

Over the same period, new users fell by 29 per cent and the number of women who continued to use HRT fell by 42 per cent.

However, the 2002 Women's Health Initiative Study failed to have the same impact in the Netherlands as the 2003 study. The researchers believe that this was partly due to the fact that the first study received little media coverage in the Netherlands compared with other countries such as the UK and USA while the second study was widely publicised in the Dutch medical and lay press.

Both studies reported that the risks of HRT outweighed the benefits. Cited problems included increased rates of breast cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, dementia and venous thromboembolism. Advantages included decreased rates of hip fractures and colorectal diseases in women using long-term HRT.

"There was a modest decline in HRT prescribing following the Women's Health Initiative study, which did not receive much media coverage

Contact: Annette Whibley
Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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