Legacy of horse abuse makes the list of censored stories in 2003

Women are given a number of choices today as to the medications they can to take for various health reasons, but many times are not given the information to make the wisest decision.

One of the top 25 censored stories of 2003 concerned the drug Premarin, a top-selling hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which is made from the urine of pregnant female horses (mares) and used in birth control and menopausal treatment.

As reported by Susan Wagner in her April 2000 story, “Pissing Their Lives Away: How the Drug Industry Harms Horses,” the pharmaceutical conglomerate Wyeth Pharmaceuticals has used its superior financial position to hide the controversy surrounding this drug.

Premarin was first approved for menopause treatment in 1942. Wagner said Wyteth Pharmaceuticals, formally Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, has been exploiting horses and women for over 60 years.

There are currently over 60,000 horses, mostly in Canada, which are used as “four-legged drug machines” who are repeatedly impregnated and confined to narrow stalls to collect their urine.

Horses are tied with a short rope so that they cannot lay down or take more than one step in any direction. They are given only small amounts of water to keep the estrogen levels in their urine high, as farmers are paid on the concentration, not volume of urine.

The urine collection devices are both painful and unhygienic, causing severe infections and lesions.

After several years the mares are shipped off to slaughter houses to provide meat for human consumption in Europe and Asia, a demand that has grown increasingly over the past few years due to Hoof-and-mouth and mad cow disease.

Every spring, the mares give birth to a foal. The foals are only allowed to spend the first few months with their mothers before the mares rejoin the “pee lines” and the foals are shipped to feed lots to be fattened up and slaughtered for human consumption in Europe and Asia. However, Premarin is not the only choice when it comes to HRT, and other alternatives are safer for both humans and animals.

It is possible to produce this drug successfully in a lab. This would not only be less expensive for the consumer, but would also be healthier, as it would not contain the more than 30 impurities that are found in estrogens produced from the urine of horses.

Women currently spend around $300 a year on HRT drugs. That figure could be greatly reduced by a generic, non-animal Premarin that is just as effective and begin the important process of switching to non-animal estrogens.

After a drug is approved, the company is granted a limited patent on it for a number of years before smaller companies are allowed to create their own generic versions of the product.

Yet when the Duramed pharmaceutical company applied for approval for its generic soy-based version of the drug, Cenestin, over 25 years after the patent had expired, Wyeth-Ayrest pressured Washington lawmakers to prevent Duramed from obtaining approval.

At that time, the only requirement to market a generic version was to have identical active ingredients. However, due to Wyeth-Ayrest’s financial clout, the law was changed to require testing for total active chemical similarity.

Duramed was denied approval for its generic drug because in over 60 years, not all the chemicals in Premarin have been clarified. The basis for the rejection was Duramed’s lack of a chemical DHES, an ambiguous animal element in Premarin that has never been proven to play an active role in the drug and was previously classified as one of the over 30 “impurities” in Premarin.

Although Premarin has gone from being the most prescribed drug in the United States to the second most, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals made a record $2 billion from the products, Premarin, Prempro and Premphase, all made from pregnant mare’s urine (PMU), in 2002. This is because it has expanded its market to the Third World, where women are hardly given a choice as to what is prescribed to them.

This is not a new phenomenon, as poor women in this country have often been the victims of drug companies. Clinics often buy drugs and distribute them without offering women a choice or informing them of the origins of the ingredients.

Another setback is Ontario’s lift of its ban on PMU farming, while many of the new farmers are Amish. Wagner, who was once president of Equine Advocates, said the Amish farmers have a history of maltreating their horses and selling them at slaughter auctions when they can no longer work.

Wagner’s full article, “Pissing Their Lives Away,” can be found in the March/April edition of The Animals’ Agenda. The report “Horses Face Lives of Unnecessary Abuse for Drug Company Profits” is in Censored 2003 The Top 25 Censored Stories.