Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Women not wanting drugs

The NY Times has this story, puzzling about women who don't like drugs:
“I even went so far as to get the prescription” for tamoxifen, she said. “But then I started reading more and decided this isn’t the way I’m going to go. I don’t like to take drugs.”

Such decisions have become a topic of growing concern among doctors and researchers, who are increasingly focused on treatments to prevent cancer in high-risk patients. ...

It is true that tamoxifen can have side effects, some of them serious. Among 1,000 similar 52-year-old women, the drug would be expected to cause 21 additional cases of endometrial cancer, a cancer of the uterine lining that is typically treatable when caught early. An additional 21 would develop blood clots, 31 would develop cataracts and 12 would develop sexual problems. And while more than half of the 1,000 women would naturally develop hormonal symptoms like hot flashes, changes in vaginal discharge or irregular periods, tamoxifen would cause those symptoms in about an additional 120 women.

While these risks are not to be taken lightly, neither are the risks of failing to use tamoxifen; its benefits for breast and bone are substantial. Yet virtually every woman in the study said she would be unlikely to take the drug.
I don't know anything about these drugs, but just two days earlier the newspaper had a story about 10,000 lawsuits over menopausal hormone drugs. It seems that there is a long history of experts telling women that they need to be on drugs to control their hormones, and then the science was later shown to be bad. It should not be surprising that some women are leery of these drugs, even if some of them appear effective.

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