As reported by The Hartford Courant, September 28, 2005.

Hormone Therapy Benefit Reported

Study: European Drug Lowers Blood Pressure

By William Hathaway

A hormone replacement therapy available in Europe helps reduce high blood pressure in menopausal women, according to a new study headed by researchers at the University of Connecticut Health Center.

While traditional hormone therapies have been linked to increased risk of stroke and heart problems, the study published Tuesday in the journal Circulation suggests that the new therapy - similar in formulation to the birth control pill Yasmin - might actually improve cardiovascular health.

"We believe this should be pursued in a systematic fashion," said Dr. William White, chief of the division of hypertension and clinical pharmacology at the Farmington-based health center and lead author of the study.

However, other experts cautioned that no hormone replacement therapy has been shown to lessen cardiovascular health risks and that the health risks of HRT are now well-established.

"There is no such thing as a risk-free fountain of youth," said Dr. Joe Walsh, director of the division of general obstetrics and gynecology at UConn Health Center.

Use of hormone replacement therapy for hot flashes and vaginal dryness has dropped precipitously in the past three years, after studies revealed it heightened the risk of stroke, heart disease and breast cancer.

The new study examined the effects of a combination HRT drug called Angelique - a new form of progestin called drospirenone combined with synthetic estrogen - on 213 women who have high blood pressure. Angelique is used in Europe but is not approved for use in the United States as hormone replacement therapy.

The study, funded by Berlex Inc., a subsidiary of the pharmaceutical company Schering AG that makes Angelique and Yasmin, showed that women taking the drug showed a significant drop in blood pressure when compared with women taking a placebo.

White said more research is needed to establish whether the drug will trigger fewer cardiovascular problems than existing hormone therapies.

Women with mood disorders and severe menopausal symptoms could benefit from a safer form of hormonal therapy, said Dr. Neill Epperson, a psychiatrist in the OB-GYN department at the Yale School of Medicine.

"But the decision whether or not to take hormones and for how long has to be made on a case-by-case basis," she said.