New HRT pill to be sold over counter

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The Independent Online
TREATMENT of the meno-pause, which affects millions of middle- aged women every year, could be revolutionised by the launch of a tablet which is promised by its makers to be a safe alternative to Hormone Replacement Therapy.

Promensil is based on plant oestrogen which is found in soya and vegetables such as beans. It is said to help cure the meno-pausal symptoms, which can cause hot flushes, profuse sweating or even depression and violent mood swings.

Novogen, the Australian pharmaceuticals group which has developed Promensil, plans to launch the tablets in the US next week and in Britain this summer. A monthly course is likely to cost about pounds 10.

Promensil will be the first medically-tested menopausal treatment in Britain which is available from chemists without a prescription. Existing herbal remedies such as Evening Primrose Oil have not been clinically proven to help cure menopausal symptoms. And as a natural remedy Promensil is reported not to have so far shown any of the side effects associated with HRT, including increased risk of uterine cancer and severe headaches. However, doctors would point out that adverse side effects could take many years to show up.

Tens of thousands of women are already using Promensil in Australia, where it was launched five months ago and has become one of the top five best selling over-the-counter treatments.

Novogen hopes to eventually use the plant oestrogen to perfect other remedies - to help reduce cholesterol levels in men, and the incidence of prostate cancer.

Novogen developed Pro-mensil after studying the dietary habits of the Japanese, whose women are less affected by the menopause than their Western counterparts because they eat more vegetables containing oestrogens.

Dr Graham Kelly, Novogen's founder and chairman, said: "More than 70 per cent of Australian women who have tried it [Promensil] are very satisfied with its performance."

The global menopause market is currently worth about $3bn (pounds 1.8bn) a year, but the potential market could grow to $20bn. Fewer than 1 in 10 women currently suffering from the menopause completes a full course of HRT due to worries about potential side effects.

However, Professor David Purdie, chairman of the British Menopause Society, was cautious. He said: "There is some preliminary evidence that some symptoms of the menopause can be relieved to a degree by these phyto-oestrogens. But we need to see more carefully-controlled clinical trials."