An estimated one in three women are currently treating menopause symptoms by using compounded bioidentical hormone therapy (CBHT) rather than conventional FDA-approved hormone therapy (HT). A recent study explored the reasons why a woman might choose this alternative to FDA-approved hormone therapy and found that several factors play a role.
Prescribed as capsules, patches, creams, sublingual lozenges and vaginal suppositories, CBHT uses varying doses of estrone, estradiol, and estriol—as well as progesterone, testosterone, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)—tailored to individual users. The products are compounded by a compounding pharmacist from a health0care providers prescription.
Over three quarters of the study respondents described CBHT as being safer than conventional HT. Among current or former CBHT users, 80.9% said they distrusted the pharmaceutical industry, which had previously promoted HT as a panacea for menopause symptoms, but which later revealed it to be associated with increased risks of stroke, blood clots, heart attacks, and breast cancer. Estrogen was the number one selling drug in the United States before concern about the long-term safety of HT prompted many women to quit using it.
Nearly half of CBHT users in the study voiced a strong aversion to the use of conjugated—or equine—estrogens, which are used in prescription medications such as Premarin (Pfizer), because they do not consider them “natural.” Almost all—95.2 % of the women—expressed frustration and distrust toward the pharmaceutical industry for the way conventional HT had been marketed to them in the past as being safe.
Women attributed a preference for CBHT because the drugs are plant-based, but also because they perceived it as a more precise chemical match to their bodies’ own hormones, the levels of which were measured by blood and saliva tests. Respondents also preferred CBHT because they could use the lowest dose of hormones possible to achieve their treatment goals.
At least 81% of the study respondents had tried herbal and soy supplements, but did not experience significant symptom relief, whereas 76.2% said that CBHT was effective in managing menopause symptoms.
Women also reported they received better attention and improved clinical care from medical professionals who prescribed and delivered CBHT, with 61.9% saying the professionals took the time to establish and build trust.
To prescribe CBHT medical professionals and compounding pharmacists spend significant time with women, listening to women’s symptoms and counseling them about treatment options.
Care that is perceived as personal has been shown to improve treatment results in general. The study concluded that aside from the as yet not conclusively explored health benefits and risks of CBHT, personal care and attention can improve outcomes.