The synthetic hormone progestogen is being widely prescribed to women for conditions where it is ineffective, or no more useful than a placebo, according to researchers from King’s College Hospital in London (Maternal Child Health 1993; July: 213-215

Progestogen the synthetic version of the hormone progesterone is the most commonly prescribed class of drugs dished out by gynaecological clinics. Yet it is unsuitable for many of the uses assigned to it.

These drugs “are abused in three areas: the control of menorrhagia [heavy periods], the treatment of premenstrual syndrome [PMS] and recurrent miscarriage,” said the researchers.

“Oral progestogens have been used extensively in menorrhagia for many years, but it is only recently that objective measurements of menstrual blood loss have revealed their effects to be modest.” A reduction of only 16 per cent is all that is usually achieved, the researchers say.

PMS “is another area in which definite abuses of progestogens occur”, they add. Controlled trials have shown them no more effective than placebos. Indeed they conclude:

“Perhaps it would be more appropriate to consider placebos first. After all, the side effect profile of progestogens is such that they are likely to cause rather than treat PMS.”

Progestogens are equally useless in treating women with a history of miscarriage. “The ongoing pregnancy rates are no different in similar women who have not had such therapy,” say the researchers.

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