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Raloxifene

MagazineDecember 1999 (Vol. 10 Issue 9)Raloxifene

The clever marketing people in the drug industry convinced everyone that the menopause was a disease

The clever marketing people in the drug industry convinced everyone that the menopause was a disease. Having done that, they were able to offer a "cure" initially in the shape of hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Then some trouble makers started having doubts, saying that it could cause breast cancer. So what happened? Women started questioning their GPs, and wanted a more natural "cure".

As every woman will pass through the menopause, it's not a market you want to give up without a fight.

One of the first to show its hand is Eli Lilly which has developed raloxifene (marketed in the UK as Evista). Yes, they say, menopause is still a disease and, yes, HRT may indeed be a problem. So how about a non hormonal treatment that will protect you against osteoporosis, while not stimulating breast and endometrial tissues?

One of the first major studies into the drug, tested on 601 postmenopausal women, gave it a glowing reference. Daily therapy could increase bone mineral density and lower blood concentrations of cholesterol, without stimulating the endometrium.

They also mentioned, in passing, that 25 per cent of the women dropped out of the study (New Eng J of Med, 1997; 337: 1641-7). Incidents of breast pain and hot flashes in particular were noted, but they were no worse than those experienced in the group being given a placebo.

Eli Lilly has discovered in separate trials that raloxifene can cause thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, leg cramps, and hot flushes, so perhaps these were other reasons why the women stopped taking the drug.

At least there was no mention of breast cancer.


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