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Women's Health

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Oprah and Bioidentical Hormones: FAQ

Oprah Is Talking About Bioidentical Hormones for Menopause; Experts Weigh In

Does That Mean Compounded Bioidentical Hormones Are Safer? continued...

"It may be safer, but that study hasn't been done yet," Schiff tells WebMD. He says he would like to see a large, lengthy, rigorously designed study on the topic.

"I'm not inherently negative about it," Schiff says. "I hope they'd be good ... and if it turns out to be safer, fabulous. I would like, as a physician, to prescribe the safest hormones to my patients who want to be treated."

Erika Schwartz, MD, a New York doctor who prescribes FDA-approved biodentical hormones and compounded bioidentical hormones, says there have been studies that support the safety of bioidentical hormones, compared to other hormone therapy.

Schwartz asks, "If NAMS or ACOG says there are not enough studies, well, why haven't you done the studies if you think you need more? If this had been men's health, would we be having this conversation, or would we have answers?"

Schwartz says she has long wanted to see large, government-sponsored studies compare bioidentical and other hormone therapies head to head.

"She's allowed to have her opinions," Uhl says. "The evidence that FDA has seen and what's available in the medical literature leads us to believe that there are the same concerns" with bioidentical and other hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms.

Uhl adds that "the FDA is not prohibiting the compounding of bioidentical hormones. There is definitely a niche for them and certain patients do need this, but it's not for everybody, and the people who are taking it need to realize that the risks are probably the same for the FDA-approved drugs as they are for the [compounded] bioidentical."

Can You Take Bioidentical Hormones Indefinitely?

Hormone therapy has been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, so most health experts recommend that women take the lowest dose for the shortest time, if they need it.

That research wasn't done on bioidentical hormones. But that doesn't necessarily mean that it's safe to take them for a longer time, Schiff says.

"If you have the exact same estrogen as one's own body makes, it doesn't mean it's any safer," says Schiff.

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