The primary menopause medications your doctor will prescribe are various forms of hormone replacement therapy, HRT, or estrogen replacement therapy, ERT.
Your physician prescribes these menopause medications in order to relieve your menopause symptoms.
HRT, hormone replacement therapy, involves taking both estrogen and progesterone. ERT, estrogen replacement therapy is for replacing estrogen alone and is usually prescribed for women who have had their uterus removed.
Estrogen is a well-established prescription therapy for hot flashes.
It also helps build bone mass, improves cholesterol, and is helpful in preventing urinary symptoms and uncomfortable vaginal symptoms. Taking HRT, estrogen and progesterone in combination, is for women who have their uterus, and helps reduce the risk of uterine cancer.
"Some Of The Available
Menopause Medications - PREMPRO: Prempro 0.3mg/w.5 mg (combination of conjugated estrogens and medroxyprogesterone acetate) provides women with relief from menopausal symptoms using lower doses of hormones: 52% less estrogen and 40% less progestin.
The FDA is now recommending that women who use HRT use the lowest effective dose for the shortest duration of time. Menopause medications such as Prempro also come in a higher dose: 0.625mg/2.5 mg if required.
Menopause Medications - PREMPROTM: Premprotm (conjugated estrogens/medroxyprogesterone acetate tablet) is used after menopause to reduce moderate to severe hot flashes, treat moderate to severe vaginal dryness, itching and burning; and help reduce a woman's chances of getting osteoporosis.
Menopause Medications - PREMARIN: Premarin (conjugated estrogens tablets) is used after menopause to reduce moderate to severe hot flashes, treat moderate to severe vaginal dryness, itching and burning; and help reduce a woman's chances of getting osteoporosis.
Menopause Medications - PREMARIN: Premarin (conjugated estrogens) Vaginal Cream is used to treat atrophic vaginitis.
Other menopause medications your doctor may prescribe:
- Clonidine (Catapres) - this medication also lowers blood pressure
- Bellergal - contains Phenobarbital. Used for hot flashes. Has the potential to become addictive. Can also make you sleepy.
- Some Anti-Depressants (SSRI's) - studies are being done to see if they reduce hot flashes.
- Estrogen is available in a variety of forms: vaginal suppositories and creams (mainly for vaginal symptoms), transdermal (skin) patches - Vivelle, Climara, Estraderm, Esclim, Alora and of course oral tablets.
"Some Of The Risks Of Taking
Estrogen Menopause Medications"
- Women on estrogen developed gallstones more often than women not on estrogen.
- Increased risk of developing deep vein thrombosis or blood clots - the overall risk is small but still something to keep in mind.
- Estrogen creams used to treat vaginal dryness may be absorbed into the bloodstream, so the same cautions apply as with taking oral estrogen.
- Estrogens increase the chances of getting cancer of the uterus - report any unusual vaginal bleeding while using these medications as this may be a sign of cancer of the uterus.
- Using estrogens with or without progestin may increase a woman's chances of heart attack, stroke and breast cancer.
"A Discussion Of Risks In Taking
Hormone Replacement Therapy"
You must do your own research when considering menopause medications, so you can make the most informed decisions for you and your health history. Research has been uncovering inconsistencies in the benefits of taking hormone replacement therapy medications.
For example a 1999 study found that taking estrogen after menopause did not protect a women against heart attacks. In fact an earlier study in the Journal of the American Heart Association reported that hormones aggravated heart problems and contributed to blood clots and gallbladder disease.
In 2001 the American Heart Association warned against hormone use to prevent heart disease. And again in 2002, the nearly seven year HERS study confirmed that hormones did not reduce the risk of heart problems in post menopausal women.
"The Women's Health Initiative Study"
The women's Health Initiative was a long term study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health looking at ways to prevent heart disease, breast and colon cancer and osteoporosis. This study has received a significant amount of press as a result of this study being halted early.
This was supposed to be an eight year trial to study the relationship between hormone replacement therapy and its possible benefits for heart disease and hip fracture as well as the risks associated with hormone therapy for breast cancer, endometrial cancer and blood clots.
The trial was not intended to study the effect of hormone therapy on menopausal symptoms or other conditions such as Alzheimer's disease.
On July 9, 2002, the Women's Health Initiative trial was halted after 5.2 years concluding that the risks for the study group on combined hormone replacement therapy outweighed the benefits. (The published report is in the July 17, 2002 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association).
It was concluded that the risks for the women in the trial who were on hormone replacement therapy included small but significant increased risks of breast cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke and blood clots. The benefits for those on hormone therapy included lower risks for hip fractures and colon cancer.
Regarding heart disease, unlike earlier studies that suggested the possibility of some protection against heart disease for women on hormone therapy, this study showed a small but significant increased risk for events such as non-fatal heart attacks.
The risk for heart disease was 29% higher for the group taking combined hormone replacement therapy than for the group on the placebo.
Regarding breast cancer, the risk for invasive breast cancer was 26% higher in the study group on combined hormone replacement therapy.
On average per year there were 38 cases of breast cancer per 10,000 women on combined hormone replacement therapy compared to 30 cases of breast cancer per 10,000 women on the placebo. So there was an average of 8 additional cases of breast cancer per year per 10,000 women in the group taking combined hormone replacement therapy.
The increase in breast cancer was apparent after four years of being on hormone replacement therapy and the risk appears to be cumulative, increasing over time.
Regarding stroke and blood clots, there was a 41% increased risk of stroke for the group on combined hormone replacement therapy. The risk of stroke appeared in the second year for the study group on hormone replacement therapy and continued into year five of the study.
The study group on combined hormone replacement therapy had two fold greater rates of blood clots than the group on placebo.