Premarin stands for Pregnant Mare’s Urine (PREgnant MARe’s urINe) or PMU.Mainly, the general public is unaware of the relationship between horses and the widely-prescribed estrogen replacement therapy drug, Premarin.
As health-conscious consumers and citizens who strive to support ethical and humane standards, it is crucial we understand the hidden realities of horses and the Premarin connection
Premarin is a hormone replacement therapy drug produced by Wyeth-Ayerst. Its active ingredient is urine from a pregnant equine mare. Because equine urine contains high levels of estrogen.
Urine collection for this purpose, is carried out PMU farms in the United States and Canada, often under inhumane conditions.
The foals of Premarin horses are mainly sold at auction by the hundreds to feedlot operators
For those of us going through the menopause, there are healthier and more humane alternatives to Premarin.
So, what is Premarin?
Premarin is the most widely prescribed pharmaceutical drug for hormone replacement therapy in the United States.
It is produced in various forms, including pills, injections, patches, creams and vaginal rings.
The medication is primarily used to increase estrogen levels in women who have had a hysterectomy or going through menopause.
It’s also used to reduce the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis in women older than 50 years of age.
In 2009, Pfizer and Wythe, the drug companies that produce medications containing PMU (Pregnant Mare’s Urine) merged.
The merger led to an increase in the production of other medications along the same lines of estrogen / hormone replacement therapies, that include Prempro, Premphase, Premelle and Prempac.
Pfizer reported over $1 billion in worldwide sales of the Premarin family of drugs in 2010
Living a PMU Mares Life
PMU mares are impregnated and then, during the last six months of their 11-month pregnancy, are fitted with urine collection devices (UCDs), which are held in place within their urethras using body straps that restrict their movements and typically cause chafing and lesions.
The mares are confined to small stalls, which prohibit their ability to take a step in any direction, to lie down properly, turn around or groom themselves.
Estrogen-rich urine is produced by restricting the mares water intake.
Mares are taken ‘off line’ to foal, then impregnated again after approximately five to six months and returned to the Premarin production lines.
This typically continues for 12 to 20 years of the mares life.
The Foals and the PMU Cycle of Cruelty
When PMU mares don’t become pregnant within a short time or are no longer able to produce the desired quantities of urine expected to meet production quotas, the majority are sold directly to horse buyers for meat for slaughterhouses.
Foals born to PMU mares then become the replacements for their dams, who have been sold for slaughter, they are often referred to as ‘The Foals of August’, sent directly to feed lots or sold to middlemen who work for the slaughterhouses.
Some PMU foals are rescued through equine adoption, but this represents only a small percentage of those born on Premarin farms.
According to the International Generic Horse Association,
‘A filly foal has a less than one in 10 chance of not going to slaughter, a colt foal, less than one in 50.’
Some Japanese consider the meat of equine foals to be a delicacy.
Studies of PMU Health Effects
In October 2010, the ‘Archives of Internal Medicine‘ revealed that 21 percent of patients using Premarin are at an increased risk of developing kidney stones over a five-year time period.
In July 2002 the U.S. government sponsored a Prempro research study by the Women’s Health Initiative. However, when the investigation began exposing the fact that Prempro use was increasing the risk of developing breast cancer, and causing stroke or heart attack, the study was abruptly stopped.
Alternatives to Premarin in Hormone Replacement Therapy
Alternatives to using Premarin or other hormone replacement therapy drugs containing PMU include healthy lifestyle changes, such as diet, stress reduction and regular exercise.
Other alternatives include phytoestrogens, which are natural substances found in flaxseed oil, soybeans, whole grains, alfalfa sprouts, fruits and vegetables.
Introduced in 2007, Amberen is a non-hormonal supplement containing safe, all-natural ingredients, whichhas proven effective in reducing the symptoms of menopause.
The other side of the PMU Premarin Coin
The, ‘treatment is humane‘ argument is put forward on the AVMA website in an article published on April 15th 2002 entitled; Veterinary, equine community dispel accusations against the pregnant mare urine industry.
However, a couple of items warrant a little close inspection when it comes to foals born to PMU mares;
- The mares are put to pasture in March, and in April or May they deliver some 30,000 foals that are weaned through September.
- And yes, foals are sold at auction by the hundreds to feedlot operators, who then send them to slaughter for European and Asian meat markets.
- a southeast Pennsylvania farm, has been purchasing foals from equine ranchers and assisting in placing the young horses with new owners. They buy up to 50 each year
30,000 foals born each year and a Pennsylvania farm takes 50 to try to re-home. Hardly a significant number.
Taking Responsible Action to Control Menopausal Symptoms
Speak with your doctor or pharmacist if you’re taking estrogen replacement drugs and are unsure of whether or not they contain pregnant mare’s urine (PMU).
- If they do, request your medication be replaced with one that doesn’t contain PMU.
- Synthetic or plant-based alternatives such as; Cenestin, Estrace, Estraderm, Ogen, OrthoEst, Estratab, Menest, Estinyl, Estrovirus, OrthoDienestrol, Tace or Climara can be equally effective.
- Educate your own children and those you know about the reality of estrogen replacement therapies containing PMU and inform them of the alternatives.
According to the International Fund for Horses,
‘For every 150 women who stop taking Premarin and Prempro, one equine mare is spared from the ‘pee line’ and seven or eight ‘by product’ foals will not be born just to be slaughtered for their meat.’
Hormone Replacement Therapy drugs containing PMU, like hormone replacement insulin produced for diabetics, can be 100% synthesized or organically compounded without PMU.
Contact Pfizer and Make Some Noise;
Contact Ian Read, Chairman & CEO of Pfizer and demand Pfizer produce a more humane product
Ian Read Chairman, CEO
Pfizer Inc. 235 East 42nd Street
New York, NY 10017
Or write a letter to your local newspaper letting them know about the cruelty of Premarin production and the safe alternatives available to women.
Educate your female friends and other women in your family about the way the drugs used in hormone replacement therapy are produced.
And finally, if you’re looking for a horse, consider adopting a PMU foal, between 13,000 and 17,000 PMU foals went to slaughter in 2002.