Recent research casts doubt on the conventional wisdom that hormones protect the heart. A four-year study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that in postmenopausal women who already had heart disease, taking estrogen and progestin did not prevent further heart attacks or death and increased the risk of blood clots.
The Food and Drug Administration this month approved Rhone- Poulenc-Rorer's CombiPatch, the first skin patch that combines estrogen and progestin. In May, the agency approved Solvay Pharmaceutical's Prometrium, the first pill containing an easily absorbed progesterone (a type of progestin) that is structurally identical to a woman's own progesterone. And in March, the FDA approved a new, lower dose of Solvay's Estratab, an estrogen pill, for prevention of osteoporosis.
While hormone options are multiplying, Premarin continues to be prescribed most often. Premarin, made by Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, is the oldest and most studied estrogen pill, and doctors have come to rely on it.