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Lack of Evidence for “Bioidentical” Hormones, and Their Marketing to Women and LGBT Customers

February 5, 2009

Yesterday at Our Bodies Our Blog, I posted about the lack of evidence of safety or efficacy for so-called “bioidentical” hormones, and a recent press release from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists expressing their concern about these products.

There are links in the post to other coverage of the topic and the FDA’s page of myths and facts about “bioidenticals,” which is definitely worth checking out.

“Bioidentical” hormones are often marketed to menopausal women as a “safer” alternative to traditional hormone replacement therapy. However, I picked up our local LGBT paper, Out & About last night, and discovered an ad featuring a gay couple and marketing the products to to those “wondering about your passion?” The ad copy promotes the products for “enhanced sex drive,” “better energy,” and “deeper sleep.”

While the FDA clearly addresses the lack of safety or efficacy data or approval for “bioidentical” hormones, and provides specific information related to women and menopause, they don’t as yet address the marketing to gay couples that is now happening.

Meanwhile, the “HRC Medical Center” referred to by the ad (although with a different URL than what is provided in the ad copy) makes claims that “Bioidentical Hormone therapy is safe, all natural and effective.” It also suggests that hormone replacement is safe, right for most people, and useful for people as young as 21 years old. They also make a specific claim that “Bio-Identical Hormones are ALL NATURAL, FDA Approved.”

Notice how those claims are exactly the opposite of what the FDA says, and what ACOG reminded us this week, about these products.

I know that there are women’s health groups working to educate women about these issues (related to menopause), but is anybody reaching out the GLBT community? Most information out there – such as on the FDA site – tends to focus heavily on the menopause-related claims, but has anyone addressed the claims such as in the ad that are targeted at other populations, such as LGBT folk?

Note: It was pointed out to me that this place might be selling testosterone, and focusing specifically on men, different from the estrogen issue we talked about at Our Bodies Our Blog. It’s difficult to tell from the website, but they do specifically mention both men and women, and menopause, and claim that their products “provide a safe and natural alternative to women and men with low levels of progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone,” so there seems to be a bit of everything (including, probably, testosterone with regards to the sex drive issue).

3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 6, 2009 2:44 pm

    Another use of bioidentical hormones is progesterone to prevent miscarriage in women with luteal phase defect. I’ve seen some studies where progesterone was used (unsuccessfully) to attempt to reduce miscarriage in all women at risk, and LPD seems to be overdiagnosed. But in women who actually have LPD, progestogen supplements for the first trimester seem to make a big difference in lowering miscarriage rates.

    Certainly progestins are also used for this purpose, and there’s not a lot of safety data for this use with either the progestins (which have small chemical differences from progesterone) and progesterone. Lacking such data, to me it makes sense that progesterone (the bioidentical hormone) would be the less risky choice over progestins.

    I support the FDA and ACOG’s efforts to educate that bioidentical does not equal safe or effective. But I don’t understand why they attack the term “bioidentical” itself: progesterone is chemically different from progestins like Provera or levonorgestrel or drospirenone. Bioidentical seems a perfectly accurate term useful for distinguishing progesterone (whether naturally occurring or synthetic) from the progestins.

  2. February 6, 2009 4:21 pm

    Lyrl, I tend to think that “bioidentical” is kind of a marketing term – it’s a label that is intended to convince people that the product is safe, like, “Oh, it’s just like what you produce naturally, so it *must* be safe!” I’m not sure there are any rules about what can and can’t be called “bioidentical,” either, so there’s potential for confusion. That’s just my take, though, not speaking for the FDA or ACOG. Thanks for your comment!

  3. mectruy permalink
    February 8, 2009 10:15 am

    Thank you writer..

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