In the ’80s and ’90s, when Mary Hunter (BSN ’80, post-master’s ANP ’11) was working as a women’s health nurse practitioner, she was bombarded with information on what was called “hormone replacement therapy” (HRT). She attended conferences sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, read a never-ending flow of promotional literature and frequently saw drug reps in the gynecology clinics where she worked, all touting the supposed benefits of estrogen.
It was the heyday of HRT – now generally referred to as HT – and an estimated 38 percent of menopausal women were taking it by the early 2000s.
“HRT was promoted to extend life and prevent disease, and there was always a strong implication that it had antiaging effects,” Hunter says. “I was under a lot of pressure by the gynecologists who employed me to prescribe menopausal hormone therapy for almost everybody who was perimenopausal or older.” She became concerned that the promotional materials were glossing over potential risks, particularly for long-term use. Her interest piqued, she became determined to look more closely at HT and the reasons so many women were using it.