Last month we took a bird’s-eye view of hormones. This month, let’s come in a bit closer and look at why human hormones are made from pregnant mares’ urine and what happens to the horses that are the “donors” of this urine.
The story begins in the late 1880s when dried cow’s ovaries made their entrance on the stage of hormone replacement. Researchers have always used animal models to try out drugs in the hopes of figuring out treatments for human diseases – human experimentation being illegal and animal rights only now coming into its own.
At the time, the biggest problem in making the drug was discovering which animal most closely resembled humans.
Having first settled on cows, researchers turned the abundantly available dried ovaries into a fine powder and then gave the mixture to women in the hopes of eliminating the symptoms of menopause, with no knowledge or long view toward preventing diseases of aging like hypertension and other heart-related problems, osteoporosis or cancer. Keep in mind that in the late 19th century no one even heard of most of these diseases. The average life expectancy for women fell short of 40, so most women barely made it to menopause if at all.
The drug made from the cow’s ovaries, Ovariin, barely eliminated the symptoms and tasted awful to boot.
Since science is never idle, the search for a better drug never ends. By 1930, Bert Collip, the scientist who discovered insulin, isolated estrogen from the urine of pregnant Canadian women with amazing results. Of course, it’s only common sense that we should be using humans to obtain the hormones women need. Still, this proved to be a costly, limited practice.
So science turned its attention to the less than cooperative stallion, as we discussed last month, and then to the more docile pregnant mare.
Here science found the perfect mix of hormones in the urine along with the ease in capturing the urine that only the gracefully obedient pregnant mare could offer and allow.
Thus a billion-dollar industry was born from pregnant mares’ urine, which became the sole source of the most successful and widely prescribed drug in the history of women – Premarin. As the name says, Pre(gnant)mar(eur)in(e) was first manufactured in 1942, thanks to the efforts of Ayerst laboratories and scientist Adolph Butenandt, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for the discovery.
Even though Premarin turned out to be a problem for many women, it is still alive and well on the market, being made by Pfizer and prescribed by gynecologists and internists across the country.
The debate over the drug still continues, while the debate over hormones is waning, since many of us now recognize that we all do a lot better when we replenish them.
However, the part that no one discusses is what happens to the mares that are kept pregnant in pens for years to donate their urine for the manufacture of Premarin and the foals that are sacrificed. These mares are kept dehydrated to provide concentrated urine and are euthanized when no longer useful – all in the service of a questionable drug.
It is my hope that education about the benefits and safety of bioidentical hormones, which are made from soy and yam oils, will lead to the demise of Premarin, which is proven to be dangerous to women, and eliminate the mistreatment of the Premarin mares.
It certainly would be more human of us to do so.
For more information, please email Dr. Erika at Erika@drerika.com or log on to; http://www.metacafe.com/watch/253945/horse_slaughter_of_the_premarin_foals/.