11:00 am - 06/17/2009

Bioidentical birth control

Hey Everyone,

I saw this this morning, and wanted to share!

"Bayer Schering Pharma, the pharmaceutical giant that makes the YAZ contraceptive pill, claims that they have developed the first ‘natural’ birth control pill in the world. They have already launched the pill, Qlaira, in the UK after doing tests with it on 3,000 women.

Instead of using synthetic hormones, like those that are found in other contraceptive pills, Qlaira uses bioidentical oestrogen hormones from natural plants, which is identical to the estrogen in the body. "

There's a bit more if you follow the link, including this sequence of sentences: "Although bioidentical hormones are boasted as safer than synthetic hormones, there is some scientific evidence that supports the theory. In January, Suzanne Somers appeared on The Oprah Winfrey show, crediting bioidentical hormones with helping her get through menopause." I thought that was pretty hilarious.

Anyway, this will be an interesting development to keep an eye on. I wonder if there is potential for less side effects, since the hormones are identical to those in our own bodies. I would guess maybe not, actually...since we get "side effects" from our own hormones too (PMS, pregnancy symptoms). But I certainly don't know.

So what do y'all think? Would you be more likely to use a "natural" hormonal birth control?
brand0new0day 17th-Jun-2009 03:11 pm (UTC)
They still have to synthesize the hormones to get them to be in a human-compatible form, therefore debunking the "we made it from plants so it's natural!" claim. Just sayin'. This whole bioidenticals thing is a bit of a joke, IMO.

Personally, I think I've got all the hormones I need because my body makes them, not because they came to me in little pills. Even menopausal women don't always need estrogen therapy.

So, to answer your question, I'm not going to persuaded to use HBC because of bioidenticals.

Thank you for posting this! I actually was just reading about Suzanne Somers' craziness on Oprah yesterday and I was wondering how the rest of the world would be affected by it. Now I know! Looks like it's going to be another crazy health fad.
archangelbeth 18th-Jun-2009 02:08 am (UTC)
Personally, I think I've got all the hormones I need because my body makes them, not because they came to me in little pills.

My thryoid doesn't make the hormones I need, so I have to take synthetic stuff in little pills. O:(

On-topic: I suspect, m'self, that the "bioidentical" stuff is going to be Just Another Pill To Try that may or may not give side effects. And if it works, that's really not a bad thing. More Options are good, up to the hypothetical day when someone invents the Perfect Birth Control that never has bad side effects for anyone, and has 100% success.
paraxeni 17th-Jun-2009 03:31 pm (UTC)
Ah wow Oprah and her odd little cadre of friends with fads are making a splash here in Blighty eh? Schering know they're onto a winner with this. Can't wait for the first rash of complaints on here, "It's supposed to be all natural so why am I X, Y and Z?"

Molecules are molecules. It's like flavour, natural strawberry flavour from a strawb, and a synthesised version of the flavour are the same, and look at how easily people are swayed by that.

Great link though, thanks!
atalanta0jess 17th-Jun-2009 05:00 pm (UTC)
I agree that chemicals are chemicals, for sure. The 'natural'ness of this bc doesn't impact my opinion or tendency to avoid HBC one little bit.

I was under the impression though, and I could definitely be wrong, that the HBC we use now isn't the same molecules that our body produces...I thought they were slightly different, in which case you might expect the bioidentical molecules to impact us slightly different...but I don't really know.
frolicnaked 17th-Jun-2009 05:08 pm (UTC)
I can see bioidentical estrogen acting like another estrogen option. And like all the synthetic progestin options that have the potential for different individual reactions and side effects, I'd guess that this would be the case for a second estrogen option, too. So while I don't know that it would be objectively better or a closer match for all people, I think there's a possibility it would agree with some individuals' bodies better.
paraxeni 17th-Jun-2009 05:17 pm (UTC)
Curse me for clearing out my links folder the other day! I found a brilliant article about the whole thing a couple of months ago, if I can find it I'll post it here, at basically like you said earlier even our own hormones are not inert, harmless chemicals with no effects. I've been on the same Pill for more or less eleven years, because my own freaky hormone levels induced ovarian problems, menstrual horrors, and being on the verge of insanity. I came off the Pill for six months in 2006 and kept running into the forest in the rain barefoot in the night in terror. I attempted suicide five times, always before my period despite being the happiest I've ever been, I thought about killing myself constantly, if I saw buses or cars I got the sudden impulse to jump in front of them. I was out of my mind. Within three days of going back on the Pill I could think again. I didn't want to kill myself over the washing up, I couldn't fathom why I'd even want to do anything like that. So if someone offered me hormones identical to my own in Pill form I'd scream and run out of the room! For some reason synthetic hormones keep me calm, functional and alive, whereas my natural ones make me a raging maniac.
atalanta0jess 17th-Jun-2009 05:31 pm (UTC)
Wow, that's really frightening. I'm so glad that you're able to stay out of that state with the help of some unnatural hormones. ;)
paraxeni 17th-Jun-2009 07:39 pm (UTC)
It really was scary, I thought I'd end up hospitalised. Even on my Pill free time which tends to run to about nine days a month (note to anyone reading, I'm not using the Pill for contraception), I feel scatty. The last couple of days are really difficult and I'm very hard to be around and unsettled. Thank God for all my unnatural chemicals!
sand_dweller 17th-Jun-2009 06:02 pm (UTC)
Yes... synthetic HBC & HRT are bad news. I forget the specifics and can't find anything to back this up at the moment, but in researching hormones a while back I quickly figured out that the synthetics (ethinyl estradiol, Premarin, etc.) had the most negative effects. They have the effect of stimulating estrogen receptors, which is all fine and dandy and expected and desired, but they do it a lot longer as they have a longer half-life in the body before being metabolized. This is why ethinyl estradiol doses are measured in micrograms and 17-beta estradiol doses are measured in milligrams.

Also, the way they are metabolized when taken orally is a stress on the liver, which leads to the problem of blood clots/strokes. This is true of bioidentical hormones as well, but the molecule is one that the body is designed to metabolize, whereas these foreign estrogenic substances are not.

*shrug* That's all I got.
(Disclaimer: I am not a biochemist/endocrinologist/doctor of any kind)

All that said... I am definitely in agreement that being on Oprah is no reason for people to run out and switch their HBC. If it's working for you, no need to mess with it.
fireaphid 17th-Jun-2009 06:50 pm (UTC)
Isn't Premarin the one derived from mare's urine? It's "natural" and still squicks me out!
sand_dweller 17th-Jun-2009 07:18 pm (UTC)
That's the one. For those who don't know:
Premarin = PREgnant MARe urINe. "Conjugated equine estrogens"... very potent stuff, harvested from pregnant mares in a rather cruel way. Definitely not vegan...

It's only "natural" because it comes from another living thing versus coming from a lab. Premarin is not entirely bioidentical, though it is apparently over 50% estrone, which does occur naturally in humans. However, estrone doesn't really do much on its own unless it gets converted to estradiol. The remainder of Premarin is estrogens that are specific to horses.
paraxeni 18th-Jun-2009 02:33 am (UTC)
I was actually arguing the opposite, that natural=/=good. My natural hormones fuck me up to such an extent that I'm mentally and physically non-functional (PMDD, endo, PCOS) and synthetic hormones have quite literally saved my life from both standpoints.

I still think Big Pharma's full of shit though, they think women are stupide enough to clamour for anything 'natural', or 'organic', with 'bioidentical' being the latest buzzword to add to an ever growing list. Give me ethical over 'natural' any day.
queensugar 17th-Jun-2009 06:32 pm (UTC)
Bear in mind I've only been following the whole "bioidentical hormone" bit in the most cursory fashion, but from what I understand the concept of "bioidentical hormones" has little or no scientific merit in terms of being somehow "superior" or better for the body than currently regulated synthetic hormones.

There's an article here. It's from 2006, so maybe things have changed, but the authors state:

In truth, there is no scientific evidence to back claims for 'bioidentical hormones' that they have any advantage over conventional therapies, but there is evidence that they may sometimes be dangerous1. So-called 'bioidentical' hormones are claimed to be synthesized from many of the same sources as traditional HRT, e.g. yams. The hormone made by the 'bioidentical' manufacturer is often claimed to be 'natural' and, in advertisements, it is inferred that the identical estradiol, produced by the regulated pharmaceutical industry from the same yam source, is somehow different and not natural. Great play is often made of pharmaceutical estrogens produced from non-vegetable sources, e.g. equine estrogens, but there is little mention that these estrogens are mostly converted in the human into human estrogens.
atalanta0jess 17th-Jun-2009 06:33 pm (UTC)
Oh, interesting. I hadn't really encountered the term bioidentical before, and assumed that it meant that other hormones were not molecularly identical to ours, but these ones were. Sounds like that may not actually be the case....weird.
queensugar 17th-Jun-2009 06:41 pm (UTC)
I'm not closed to the idea that they might be fundamentally different, but for the time being I prefer to remain skeptical of any medical "innovation" in women's health that seems to be most largely pushed by people with money to make off of selling it as better, and not by recognized medical authorities. The Mayo Clinic also says there is no evidence they are safer or more effective than traditional hormones.
sand_dweller 17th-Jun-2009 07:50 pm (UTC)
Not to dismiss your comment or anything, but that article reads like the work of pharmaceutical company shills. The raw material used to make the estrogen (yams) is not what makes the hormones natural or not; it's the molecular structure of the estrogen. Note the scare quotes, and the framing of the pharmaceutical variety of hormones as the only viable option. I think its amusing they talk about scare tactics and then go on to use those very tactics themselves.

It seems to me that they're conflating the suitability of saliva testing for hormone levels with the efficacy of bioidentical hormones procured from compounding pharmacies.

Great play is often made of pharmaceutical estrogens produced from non-vegetable sources, e.g. equine estrogens, but there is little mention that these estrogens are mostly converted in the human into human estrogens.
Great play is made because it's cruel to harvest pee from pregnant horses like that. And most HBC doesn't use equine estrogens anyway... it's almost universally ethinyl estradiol, which DOES NOT get converted into anything resembling endogenous 17-beta estradiol.
atalanta0jess 17th-Jun-2009 07:57 pm (UTC)
Maybe you can clarify a bit of confusion that I'm having. Bioidentical hormones are molecularly identical to the hormones our bodies produce, correct?

I feel like the source is being emphasized a lot...when the real issue is whether or not the hormones are really identical to our own...but I'm not sure, and can't find a really solid answer anywhere.
sand_dweller 17th-Jun-2009 09:34 pm (UTC)
My understanding is that yes, bioidentical refers to the hormone molecules themselves being identical to those found naturally in the body. And yes, they are really highlighting the "natural" source waaaay too much... I mean, lots of synthetic, "unnatural" things come out of the earth and plants and things by way of laboratory fiddling. The source doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the resulting product.

The supposed benefit of bioidentical hormones comes from the fact that it's the same kinds of hormones your body is designed to use. Whether there really are any advantages will take a lot of testing to find out, but unfortunately, there's little financial incentive for pharmaceutical companies to do this. My personal feeling is that they likely can't be any worse than the other kinds. *shrug*

I know it's Wikipedia, but they have an article up here
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioidentical_hormone_replacement_therapy
on bioidentical HRT. Obviously, HRT and HBC are somewhat different subjects, but the article does a decent job of clarifying the bioidentical aspect of things as well as the controversy, which seems to be centered around compounding pharmacies rather than factory-produced bioidentical hormone pills.
atalanta0jess 17th-Jun-2009 09:42 pm (UTC)
Cool, thanks!
queensugar 17th-Jun-2009 09:35 pm (UTC)
This is just one article and one viewpoint among many; unfortunately, I was not able to find any opposing positive articles on "bioidentical hormones" that weren't directly tied to a consumer product or service.

When I am able to find a non-biased, authoritative medical source that recognizes the benefits of "bio-identical hormones," then I will gladly refer to that source; it seems that there is little out there.
frolicnaked 17th-Jun-2009 05:00 pm (UTC)
If something happened with my Mirena -- *knocks wood* -- I might be persuaded to try a birth control with bioidentical hormones, for the simple reason: I have already tried all the types of synthetic hormones currently used as BC in the U.S.

I think that's a little different than what you're asking, though. For me, it wouldn't be that I perceived bioidentical hormones to be more natural or better than the contraceptive formulations currently available. It would simply be because it was something new and different than what I'd already tried.
fireaphid 17th-Jun-2009 06:49 pm (UTC)
On an only slightly related note, Suzanne Somers was a complete nut on that show (I saw the clip of just her appearance). She takes a boatload of completely untested drugs (natural, but still real drugs) daily in order to live forever and stay young. So creepy!
criswithnoh 17th-Jun-2009 08:58 pm (UTC)
Wasn't it something crazy like 60 pills a day?? Ugh.
paperispatient 17th-Jun-2009 08:51 pm (UTC)
How interesting! I'm very happy on the pill that I take now and would be reluctant to switch it, but this is something I'd consider down the line if I were seeking another option - only, though, after it had been out for a while and a bit more research had been done. I'm very wary of newly-on-the-market drugs given all of the surprise horrible side effects that drugs like Vioxx were discovered to have after lots of people started taking them.
kimie_catclaw 17th-Jun-2009 09:24 pm (UTC)
Yes, this.


I'm perfectly happy with Microgestin, and it's only a $5 copay with my insurance. Unless this new thing had more to back it up AND was similarly cheap, I've no need to change.
vdoeschallenge 17th-Jun-2009 10:36 pm (UTC)
I don't think I would take it. Maybe if it was developed 20 years ago and it was already proven to be safe and effective. I mean trials are supposed to do that, but its kinda like buying the first model year of a car, its just a bad idea. Let them work the kinks out first.
eye12 Bayer trying to fool people20th-Jul-2011 07:56 pm (UTC)
Bayer is trying to fool women into believing this is a bioidentical product. One of he hormones is dienogest, a progestin-replaces progesterone(which is natural) This hormone is actually synthesized from testosterone, is not natural or bioidentical and was the reason that the WHI showed the dramatic increase in breast cancer and actually does cause bloating, breast swelling and tenderness, water retention and inhibits apoptosis of cancer cells. This is a drug company trying to pull the wool over your eyes, don't buy it.
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