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    NIH Panel: Menopause Is Not a Disease

    Report Calls for Less Emphasis on Hormone Treatment

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    "It gives women and health care providers the information they need to insulate themselves from quacks and poor choices," says Deborah Briceland-Betts, PhD, senior vice president of the Sutton Group, and a member of the NIH panel.

    The group endorsed already-recommended strategies of using lower doses for shorter periods of time for women with more severe symptoms, though it cautioned that research has not conclusively shown which doses can be deemed safe.

    Mangione, who is a professor of medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles, said that some women do experience debilitating menopausal symptoms and that such women should weigh the benefits of symptom relief with the risk of side effects. But most other women tend to improve without drugs or other treatments, she added.

    She noted that several studies have shown that up to one-third of women taking placebos instead of drugs still see their symptoms subside. It's a larger improvement than is seen with placebos in most medical studies, though researchers still do not understand why the effect is so large.

    "It suggests that there is a big segment of the population out there who probably are going to be better without any treatments," she says.

    SOURCES: Draft Statement of the National Institutes of Health State-of-the-Science Conference on Management of Menopause-Related Symptoms, March 23, 2005. Carol Mangione, MD, professor of medicine, UCLA, chair, NIH panel. Deborah Briceland-Betts, PhD, senior vice president, Sutton Group; and member, NIH panel.

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