Anti-ageing drug on French prescription

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The Independent Online

Capsules containing Dhea, an anti-ageing hormone, went on sale ­ under prescription ­ in chemists in France yesterday at a cost of up to £30 for a month's treatment.

The hormone ­ dehydroepiandrosterone ­ is already available on open sale in America but has not until now been readily available in Europe, except in Luxembourg. Dhea is created naturally by the body, but in declining quantities from the age of 25. In its artificial form, it has been in demand in America to delay the effects of ageing in women.

Professor Etienne-Emile Baulieu, the French scientist who first discovered the importance of the hormone, said yesterday he would publish a study soon that suggested Dhea supplements could have a "spectacular" effect on delaying male mortality.

Its appearance in chemists' shops in France is tolerated despite not being authorised. Until tests on possible side-effects are completed, the French National Council of Doctors has recommended that its members should not prescribe Dhea.

Chemists can sell the hormone, but only if a patient produces a prescription from a doctor saying that he or she has had a test for hormone deficiency. Until now, Dhea has been available in France only in certain pharmacies in Paris. Claudie Lepage, 55, who has been taking the hormone for several months, toldLe Parisien newspaper yesterday: "My skin has become younger and more moist. My body has recovered the suppleness that it had lost."

Concerns remain, though, over possible links between artificial Dhea and cancer. Professor Baulieu himself warned yesterday that women with any history of breast or uterine cancer in their immediate family should not take it.

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