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FOR WANT OF A HORSE : AFTER TIRING OF THEIR ATTACKS ON POULTRYMEN, FURRIERS AND 4-H KIDS, ANIMAL ACTIVISTS HAVE TAKEN ON . . . MENOPAUSAL WOMEN.

Byline: Ronna Jurow

AS a female gynecologist in a little town in Southern California, I find it frustrating when my office begins receiving calls from patients confused by the misleading claims being made by animal activists about the most commonly prescribed and best studied estrogen replacement hormone, Premarin, which is made from the urine of pregnant mares.

Here's my gripe: Most of the women of our generation have fought long and hard for equality in the workplace, acceptance into professions and educational equality. We even had to fight to get medical research dollars for women's health. But now there is a new, more insidious attack on women.

So what's the big issue that has me all ``fired up?'' Menopause. It is the time in our lives when our ovaries decrease in function. With the ovarian decline, our sex hormones, most notably estrogen, decrease. The signs and symptoms vary from ``hot flashes'' - vasomotor instability - to insomnia, sore breasts, loss of concentration, feelings of great insecurity and, if that's not enough, a loss of libido - ``Where's my sexy self gone?''

However, for more than half a century it has been well-accepted by the medical community and women alike that hormone replacement therapy - known as HRT, replacing the dwindling hormones - helps counteract some of the ill effects of menopause.

Even more important, one of the leading causes of death in women stems from complications accompanying broken hips; usually the result of osteoporosis, which can be prevented with hormone therapy.

A considerable body of scientific evidence suggests that HRT can also help prevent heart disease, the leading cause of death among women. And there is preliminary evidence that HRT may help prevent Alzheimer's disease in older women.

Premarin has been the foremost estrogen used in hormone replacement therapy. During its 54 years, it has been studied, used and restudied. It works.

So what's the problem? Well, our dear sisters in the animal rights brigade, feeling strong after their attacks on the beef industry, the chicken industry, the fur industry and our children's 4-H organizations, have now turned on themselves and us. Just as women's health-care needs are beginning to get the attention they deserve, propaganda-spouting animal activists are trying to undermine the research and limit our freedom of choice on its most fundamental level - our right to the best possible information about how to care for our bodies.

The Women's Health Initiative is designed to clinically evaluate the benefits ascribed to HRT in preventing heart disease and memory loss, while also providing a sound scientific assessment of an increased risk of breast cancer that may be associated with hormone replacement therapy. Women need these answers.

Can you imagine the response we'd see if these activists were calling on men to not participate in a study of a prostrate cancer medication because it was derived from an animal byproduct? Why is it that so many celebrities join animal rights causes aimed at things that women use?

Premarin is made from the urine of pregnant mares. Oh boy! There goes my office phone again - ``Doctor, why are you prescribing a pill that is made from horse urine and why are they so cruel to the horses?''

That's poppycock. Many medications are derived from animal or plant extracts. The estrogens in Premarin are extracted from the urine, through a sophisticated and painstaking process. There is no urine in Premarin.

All right, let's examine the claims that the mares are cruelly abused. I am not only a gynecologist, but I'm also a lifelong horsewoman and an animal breeder. I can claim expertise in horses and I also breed and care for environmentally endangered species of poultry and waterfowl. I have investigated the charges being made by animal activists, that family farmers neglect and mistreat the horses. Not true.

I did my homework. There are nearly 500 privately-owned family ranches in North Dakota and Midwestern Canada supplying the urine for the production of Premarin.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the International League for the Protection of Horses, the Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta Ministries of Agriculture, the Canadian Farm Animal Care Trust and many other experts, from highly regarded university equine veterinary science departments, have investigated the allegations made by the animal activists and determined they were unfounded.

The ranches have received high marks and often even praise from these organizations. Sure they also made some observations for improving, but they didn't conclude that the horses were anything but well cared for.

Estrogen replacement may not be for everyone. There are synthetically produced estrogens that I prescribe for some women. But I prefer to put my patients on medications with the best track record, the most research and the longest history of safe and effective use. And I resent animal activists telling women that all estrogens are the same and recommending that menopausal women simply need to switch to a vegetarian diet.

I am tired of having to battle the misinformation these anti-women animal advocates are promoting to my patients.

My advice to women: Don't be fooled by claims made by people asking you for money to oppose things that women use or enjoy and don't waste your hard-earned money on so-called ``animal rights'' groups.

CAPTION(S):

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Photo: Mare's nest: The use of equine urine to make estrogen for women is effective and the horses are anything but ill-treated. So what's the gripe?

Daily News File Photo
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
Article Details
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Nov 8, 1996
Words:905
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