Hormone therapy fails to
slow heart disease in older women, study finds
March 13, 2000
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Hormone-replacement therapy, widely believed to be an
effective treatment for heart ailments in older women, does not appreciably
slow progression of cardiac disease, reseachers at Wake Forest University
"The message for women and their physicians is to make full use of proven
therapies such as cholesterol-lowering drugs and not assume that HRT (hormone
replacement therapy) is an effective alternative for treatment of heart
disease," said Dr. David Herrington of the university's Baptist Medical
In reporting the study on Monday to members of the American College of
Cardiology during a meeting in California, Herrington said 309 women with
heart disease were randomly assigned to take an estrogen supplement called
Premarin, estrogen combined with progestin (Prempro) or a placebo.
Using injected dye to measure progressive restrictions in the women's
arteries, the reseachers saw "no differences between the groups in how
quickly the disease progressed," said Herrington. "HRT did lower cholesterol,
but these changes didn't translate into a measurable benefit in the arteries
of the heart." The study lasted about three years.
The average age of women in the Wake Forest study was 65.8 years.
Forty-eight percent of the women were heart-attack survivors.
The research, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is the second
major clinical study that questions whether hormone-replacement therapy is
effective against heart disease. In 1998, the Heart and Estrogen/Progestin
Replacement Study of 2,763 women who took the hormones for four years had
just as many heart attacks as women who didn't take the treatment.
Other researchers are seeking to determine the relationship between hormone
therapy and heart disease among younger, healthier women.
Dr. Trudy Bush of the University of Maryland said whether estrogen can
prevent or reduce heart disease among healthy women remains unanswered.
"We need to remember that heart disease is a chronic disease," Bush said.
"It's a long-term disease so we can't expect giving women estrogens who
already have heart disease to immediately have benefit."