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Harm from menopause remedies

4th September 2006

04092006_menopause1.jpgA new report by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) says that women who swap hormone replacement therapy for alternative therapies to treat menopause symptoms risk harming themselves. 

They warned women not to expect too much from the therapies, saying there was some evidence they reduced hot flushes, but there was also a risk of stomach upset and rashes. 

Evidence set out in the new opinion paper written by the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Royal College, examines some of these alternatives to HRT, looking at possible benefits of treatments, but also harm that can be caused if they are taken without guidance. Over 200 remedies exist, although valuable scientific research has only been conducted on a few.

About 40% of women looking for treatment for the menopause are estimated to use alternative therapies alongside of or instead of HRT, which is the traditional medical treatment used to relieve the symptoms of the menopause. This report says the overall effectiveness of alternative preparations indicates a 50-60% reduction in symptoms, compared to traditional HRT which has 80-90% reduction in symptoms.

The paper highlighted a woman using black cohosh who needed a liver transplantation after a particularly severe reaction. The college said while causality was not proven, doctors had been told about the case.

The honorary secretary of the RCOG, Richard Warren, said: "The current interest and enthusiasm directed towards alternative treatments for menopausal symptoms is understandable, but the full risks and benefits of these alternatives are still unknown."

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