Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) Linked to Pancreatitis Risk: Study

The findings of new research suggest that side effects of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which have long been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, may also increase the risk of pancreatitis.  

In a study published in the latest issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, researchers from Sweden indicate that women who take postmenopausal HRT drugs, such as Prempro or Premarin, face a significantly increased risk of pancreatitis. Women who used systemic therapy or who took the drugs for more than a decade were at the highest risks.

Researchers conducted a prospective study of 31,494 postmenopausal women ages 48 to 83, asking the women about their HRT use, and looked at hospital databases for women who had been admitted for acute pancreatitis.

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The study found that for every 100,000 women who used Prempro, Premarin or a similar HRT drug, there are 71 cases of acute pancreatitis. That compares to only 52 cases per 100,000 women who do not use the hormone medications.

As a result of the findings, researchers recommended that doctors take the potential risk of pancreatitis from hormone replacement therapy into account when prescribing the medications for women to artificially boost hormone levels due to surgery or in postmenopausal women.

Previously, the primary concerns associated with use of hormone replacement therapy has been the potential risk of breast cancer. In 2002, a study by the Women’s Health Initiative first warned of the risk of breast cancer from hormone replacement therapy.

In 2012, a study using data from the Nurse’s Health Study, found an 88% increase in the risk of breast cancer for women who underwent HRT over a period of 10-15 years. The risk doubled if the women used HRT for 15 to 20 years.

The manufacturers of Prempro, Premarin and other HRT medications have faced thousands of breast cancer lawsuits filed by former users of hormone replacement therapy, which alleged that inadequate warnings were provided about the safety of the medications.

Several juries nationwide have awarded multi-million dollar compensatory damage awards to plaintiffs diagnosed with breast cancer after HRT use, including a number of cases that included punitive damage awards after juries found that drug makers intentionally hid the risks associated with the medications. However, the drug makers have also obtained defense verdicts in a number of cases.

Pfizer agreed to pay out about $1.2 billion to settle 10,000 HRT breast cancer lawsuits in 2012.


  • DyanApril 29, 2015 at 7:57 am

    I think this slideshare will be a good complement to the article: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDM9SMA637U

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