Hormone cancer claim studied

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 July, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 July, 2002, 12:00am

Health officials are studying claims by US researchers that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can increase the risk of breast cancer, heart attacks and other serious side effects.

There are an estimated 24,000 women now taking HRT pills in Hong Kong - about eight per cent of women who have passed the menopause, according to the Hong Kong office of Wyeth, the drug company that makes the top-selling treatment.

The University of Hong Kong's faculty of medicine said last night it needed to study the findings before commenting. Widespread concern followed the Women's Health Initiative study in the US which found the treatment known as combination HRT increased the risk of cardiovascular disease and, over time, breast cancer.

The US National Institutes of Health announced on Tuesday they were discontinuing the testing of combination HRT due to the increased risk of breast cancer and uncertainty of the long-term benefit.

A spokesman for the Hong Kong Department of Health said neither the US Food and Drug Administration nor any other health authorities worldwide had so far taken any action against the use of the drug.

'The department is aware of the study, which is a new and important study,' a spokesman said.

'Both local and international medical communities need time to examine the findings very carefully before making a good judgment.'

The Hospital Authority also said that it would study the latest findings before making further decisions.

Wyeth shares tumbled more than 24 per cent on Tuesday as concerns grew over the safety of the treatment.