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WHAT NOW FOR HRT PATIENTS?; The leading Scots expert on HRT has offered to resign after it was claimed it can increase breast cancer risks. Prof Purdie claims the treatment is safe but what's the alternative for women?


WOMEN battling bone disease with hormone therapy were stunned by a new breast cancer alert yesterday.

Government experts have ruled HRT should no longer be the first choice to treat osteoporosis because it increases the risk of breast cancer.

But the decision has split the medical world, with one bone disease expert who backs HRT offering to resign over the row.

Professor David Purdie, of the Edinburgh Osteoporosis Centre, said: ``I believe GPs should retain the option to use HRT in women in their early 50s toprevent osteoporosis. I think HRT is effective, reliable and safe in preventing osteoporosis.

``I believe women can use HRT whentheyareyoungerandmoveon to non-hormonal treatments later on.''

The warning came yesterday from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Committee on the Safety of Medicines.

About 2.5 million women across Britain are on HRT to combat the symptoms of menopause and the risk of osteoporosis, which weakens the bones and puts them at increased risk of fracture.

But the government agencies say Europe-wide research among a million women has backed fears that long-term use of the treatment could lead to ahigher risk of breast cancer. And the ruling has left HRT patients wondering what they should do in future.

Alternative health specialist Jan De Vries said they should consider the wide range of herbal and nutritional medicines available for the conditions.

He said: ``I have always argued that if people can do it alternatively, it's better to avoid HRT completely.

``Fears over HRT have been exaggerated a bit, but there are so many alternatives and precautions that people can take.

``For a start, there are machines we use which help women find out if they have osteoporosis, because a lot of women take these remedies out of fear and there might be no need.

``The treatments include Osteoprime, which is a natural herbal and nutritional programme of capsules people can take twice a day.

``Menopausal Factors is a tabletyou take twice a day and often does a better job than HRT. Phytogen is a vitamin mineral trace element remedy dealing with menopause and osteoporosis, and Female Balance is for the hormonal balance.

``They are all excellent remedies which can help.''

Medical herbalist Dee Atkinson said: ``The first thing to remember is that you cannot come off HRT immediately.

``You need to do it gradually or you can end up suffering massive side-effects such as severe hot flushes and other effects.

``A herb called black cohosh is clinically proven as a herbal medical treatment for osteoporosis, and it should be taken with a calcium supplement, with magnesium boron.

``For flushes, I recommend sage tincture, while passion flower tablets are an excellent treatment for mood swings and agnus castus works well for hormonal balance.

``But the most important things is to see a qualified medical herbalist who can make up the right medicine for the patient individually.''

Last night, the Department of Health said they were aware of Professor Purdie's resignation offer, but they stood by the advice on HRT.


NEW APPROACH: Herbal remedies such as calcium and agnus castus, above, can help with the menopause
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Dec 5, 2003
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