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Hormone Patch Approved By FDA To Prevent Osteoporosis

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recently approved an estrogen skin patch that can be worn by post-menopausal women to help prevent osteoporosis, a degenerative bone disease.  The hormone patch has been approved since March 1996 to treat menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness.  The patch is also approved in 44 countries to treat menopausal symptoms and is approved in 40 countries to help prevent menopausal osteoporosis.  

The Vivelle “transdermal” hormone patch is worn on the skin and helps deliver the hormone estrogen to the body.  Estrogen has been found to help maintain bone density . Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is commonly used by post-menopausal women to help prevent and treat osteoporosis.

According to Novogyne Pharmaceuticals, the Vivelle hormone patch is applied twice a week and is available in four dosages.  A low-dose version of the patch was recently approved by the FDA and is scheduled to be available in late 2000.  Side effects of the hormone patch may include headache, back pain, breast tenderness, and fluid retention.  A low-dose formula may help to reduce these side effects.

There is conflicting evidence that HRT, including the use of a hormone patch, may increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer. Although studies have been inconsistent, there is emerging consensus that estrogen replacement therapy (HRT with estrogen alone) does not significantly increase the risk for breast cancer if taken for less than five years. Click here to learn more about the link between HRT and breast cancer. 

The decision to take long term hormone replacement is a personal one each woman needs to make carefully with her physician.  Long term hormone replacement therapy is a tradeoff between the proven benefits of preventing osteoporosis versus the possibility of increasing the risk of breast cancer. Research has also shown that HRT may prevent or reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease , type II diabetes (adult onset), colon cancer, urinary incontinence, and heart disease .

Osteoporosis is a degenerative bone disease that primarily affects post-menopausal women. Osteoporosis affects roughly 25 million Americans and is currently one of the most under-diagnosed and under-treated disorders in medicine.   Physicians recommend that women maintain a balanced diet rich in calcium, perform regular weight-bearing exercise or activity, avoid smoking, limit alcohol intake, and consider HRT or other drug therapies to help prevent osteoporosis.  Research has also shown that eating a high-protein diet may contribute to osteoporosis. 

Additional Resources and References