Bioidentical hormones, also referred to as human-identical hormones, are made in a laboratory from molecules found in plants such as soybeans or wild yams. These molecules are found to be biologically identical to the ones found naturally in a woman’s body, therefore it has been said that a woman’s body would respond to them in the same manner.
The theory is that bioidentical hormones look and act like the original hormones they were designed to duplicate. Synthetic hormones are chemically different from the hormones found naturally in the human body (so they can be patented by pharmaceutical companies). Since they are not an exact fit, it is inferred that they are not as readily accepted by the body.
You may be saying, “What about Premarin?” While you might think that it is natural because it is made from pregnant mare’s urine, it is not identical to the molecular structure of the hormones produced by the female body.
Since every woman’s hormonal levels are different, bioidentical hormone therapy is tailored to fit her individual needs, based on the results of hormone testing. A physician who is experienced in bioidentical hormones would order a hormone profile which could be in the form of a blood test, saliva test, urine test, or a combination, depending on the patient’s situation.
Based on the evaluation of the results, the physician would then prescribe an individualized hormone therapy to replace only the hormones needed. There is usually a follow-up period, which may involve re-testing of hormone levels to monitor progress and make any adjustments. This is definitely a customized therapy, and not the ‘one-size-fits-all’ method of traditional HRT.
In order to obtain an individualized prescription, the medication needs to be prepared by a compounding pharmacy. This type of pharmacy is not the usual big pharmacy chain, but rather a small, independently owned pharmacy found in many communities, where a compounding pharmacist mixes the ingredients to fit the patient’s specific needs.
There has been much controversy recently among medical entities with regard to bioidentical hormone therapy. The FDA recently warned seven pharmacies to stop making misleading claims about their products, when they had apparently claimed that their products were superior to FDA-approved hormone therapy drugs. (It should be noted that the FDA does not review compounded drugs for safety and effectiveness.) Hormone replacement therapy in general, has been a hot topic for debate for many years.
There are a myriad of FDA tested and approved hormone therapies and there therapies that have either not yet been tested, or approved. In the end, it is ultimately up to the patient to make sure they are well informed about the treatment choices that are available for their particular condition.