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New HRT warnings over stroke fears

The Department of Health is poised to issue fresh warnings over HRT after US research found 'unacceptable' risks of stroke linked to oestrogen-

only therapy.

Concerns over the stroke risk, as well as the suggestion of an increased risk of dementia, led to another arm of the high-profile Women's Health Initiative study being halted early last week.

A safety committee took the decision after latest data showed a significantly raised risk of stroke in women taking oestrogen-only HRT.

The increased risk was equivalent to eight additional strokes per 10,000 women per year.

This was similar to the raised stroke risk seen in the combined oestrogen-progestin arm of the trial, which prompted the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency to add a warning to HRT product information.

A department spokesman said the Government's expert working group on HRT had been made aware of the new data relating to oestrogen-

only HRT and would 'carefully consider' the need to update product information.

Dr Barbara Alving, director of the Women's Health Initiative study and acting director of the US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, said preliminary data from the

oestrogen-only arm of the trial also showed 'a trend towards increased risk' of dementia or cognitive impairment.

The data relate to 11,000 postmenopausal women with hysterectomies who were taking 625mg of conjugated equine oestrogen.

But the trial found no increased risk of breast cancer from oestrogen alone ­ in stark contrast to the results of the landmark UK-based Million Women Study.

Dr Anthony Seeley, a council member of the British Menopause Society and a GP in Bridgnorth, Shropshire, said: 'It's another confidence shaker that I'm sure will be taken out of context.'

Dr Seeley said the findings of the WHI study may not be entirely relevant to the UK. 'The average age in the WHI is 63 ­ in the UK most women would start HRT in their 40s and be finished by 63.'

By Rob Finch

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