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Hormone Replacement Therapy

Volume 407: debated on Wednesday 25 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent research he has assessed on links between hormone replacement therapy and susceptibility to Alzheimer's; what research is being conducted into this in the UK; and what guidance has been issued to GPs and hospitals prescribing HRT about advising patients of the risks of dementia. [118239]

The main Government agency for research into the causes and treatments of disease is the Medical Research Council (MRC), which receives its funding from the Department of Trade and Industry via the Office for Science and Technology.The MRC WISDOM (Women's International Study of Long Duration Oestrogen after Menopause) trial was to assess the balance of risks and benefits of long-term hormone replacement therapy (HRT) on conditions such as heart disease and dementia to allow women and their doctors to make informed choices about treatment. The decision was taken on 23 October 2002 to stop the trial for scientific and practical reasons.The Committee on the Safety of Medicines (CSM) considered a pre-publication copy of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study (a USA study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2002, demonstrating that HRT doubled the risk of dementia in women over 65 years) and gave advice that the information confirmed the known risks of long-term HRT. The CSM had issued advice on the safety of HRT in 1997 and did so again in 2002. Product information, including patient information leaflets, gives clear advice on the indications and risks of HRT. In the light of the WHI study, the Department of Health issued an urgent communication to primary care trust chief executives, medical directors of trusts and directors of public health to cascade to general practitioners, alerting them to the study's findings and to deal with queries from women who were concerned about HRT following publicity about the study.