The following highlights recently released journal articles on women's health issues.

Public Health
"Treating Symptoms of Menopause: a Study of the Effectiveness of Black Cohosh Alone and With Other Herbal Therapies or Soy," Annals of Internal Medicine: Katherine Newton and colleagues of Group Health studied 351 women ages 45 to 55, half of whom were menopausal and half of whom were post-menopausal, the Los Angeles Times reports. The women experienced an average of about six menopausal symptoms daily, including hot flashes and night sweats, and were separated into five groups for treatment. One group received 160 mg daily of the herbal treatment black cohosh; the second received a daily combination of nine herbs and 200 mg of black cohosh; the third received the mixture of nine herbs and the participants were asked to increase their soy intake; the fourth received estrogen, with or without progestin; and the fifth received a placebo (Maugh, Los Angeles Times, 12/19). After three, six and 12 months of treatment, the researchers found no significant reduction in frequency and intensity of menopausal symptoms among women taking black cohosh alone or with other herbs compared with those taking a placebo. The placebo group experienced a 30% reduction of such symptoms over 12 months, which Newton said could signal that symptoms ease over time whether women take treatment (Rubin, USA Today, 12/19). Hormone therapy reduced menopausal symptoms and soy increased symptoms, the study found. The study was sponsored by NIH's National Institute on Aging and the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (Los Angeles Times, 12/19).

NPR's "All Things Considered" on Monday reported on the study. The segment includes comments from Gail Greendale, a gynecologist at the University of California-Los Angeles, and Newton (Aubrey, "All Things Considered," NPR, 12/18). A transcript and audio of the segment are available online.

"Evaluation of a Continuous Regimen of Levonorgestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol: Phase 3 Study Results," Contraception: David Archer, a Wyeth consultant from the Eastern Virginia Medical School, and colleagues enrolled about 2,100 women between ages 18 and 49 to evaluate the efficacy and safety of Wyeth's Lybrel -- an oral contraceptive pill that can eliminate women's monthly periods if taken consistently throughout the year -- the Long Island Newsday reports (Taylor, Long Island Newsday, 12/14). Lybrel, which contains a lower dose of synthetic hormones in a daily dose than traditional oral contraceptives, is taken 365 days a year with no placebo pills. The usual regimen for oral contraceptives is 21 active pills taken consecutively, followed by seven placebo pills (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 6/29). The study, which was funded by Wyeth, found that the drug was safe and effective in minimizing cramps, bloating and mood swings. According to the study, 40% of the participants also experienced some spot bleeding, which disappeared the longer the participants took the drug (Lite, New York Daily News, 12/17). Some physicians said they question the methodology and conclusions of the study because more than half of the participants dropped out before the study ended, the Newsday reports (Long Island Newsday, 12/14). Lybrel could receive FDA approval as soon as next month, according to the Daily News (New York Daily News, 12/17).

Bioethics and Science
"Histocompatible Embryonic Stem Cells by Parthenogenesis," Science: Kitai Kim of Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and colleagues produced embryonic stem cells from unfertilized mouse eggs using a technique called parthenogenesis -- a procedure in which an egg is stimulated to divide without being fertilized -- the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Hall, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/15). The researchers then selected the cells that were genetic matches to the mouse's immune system, which would be able to develop into new tissue without being rejected as 'foreign' by the mouse's body, the Boston Globe reports (Goldberg, Boston Globe, 12/15). According to the researchers, creating stem cells from a woman's unfertilized eggs could be a way to produce cells that would closely match her immune system and could be suitable for transplantation. In humans, this would ensure that transplanted cells would not be rejected by the body. The technology would only be applicable to women, but scientists also are trying to produce stem cell lines from sperm, which is more difficult, the Chronicle reports (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/15).

"Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation . © 2005 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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