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"Oct. 24, 2012 -- Women who take hormones within five years of menopause may have a slightly lower risk of Alzheimer's disease compared to women who don't ever take them, a new study shows.

The study, which is published in the journal"...

Estring

Warnings
Precautions

WARNINGS

See BOXED WARNINGS

ESTRING (estradiol vaginal ring) is a vaginal administered product with low systemic absorption following continuous use for 3 months (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY, Pharmacokinetics, Absorption). The estrogen plus progestin substudy of WHI utilized systemically-absorbed oral estrogen/progestin. However, the warnings, precautions, and adverse reactions associated with oral estrogen and/or progestin therapy should be considered in the absence of comparable data with other dosage forms of estrogens and/or progestins.

Cardiovascular disorders

An increased risk of stroke and deep vein thrombosis (DVT) has been reported with estrogen alone therapy. An increased risk of stroke, DVT, pulmonary embolism, and myocardial infarction has been reported with estrogen plus progestin therapy. Should any of these occur or be suspected, estrogens with or without progestins should be discontinued immediately.

Risk factors for arterial vascular disease (for example, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, tobacco use, hypercholesterolemia, and obesity) and/or venous thromboembolism (VTE) (for example, personal history or family history of VTE, obesity, and systemic lupus erythematosus) should be managed appropriately.

Stroke

In the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), estrogen alone substudy, a statistically significant increased risk of stroke was reported in women receiving daily conjugated estrogens (CE 0.625 mg) compared to placebo (45 versus 33 per 10,000 women-years). The increase in risk was demonstrated in year one and persisted. (See Clinical Studies)

In the estrogen plus progestin substudy of WHI, a statistically significant increased risk of stroke was reported in women receiving daily CE 0.625 mg plus medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA 2.5 mg) compared to placebo (31 versus 24 per 10,000 women-years). The increase in risk was demonstrated after the first year and persisted. (See Clinical Studies.)

Coronary heart disease

In the estrogen alone substudy of WHI, no overall effect on coronary heart disease (CHD) events (defined as nonfatal myocardial infarction [MI], silent MI and CHD death) was reported in women receiving estrogen alone compared to placebo. (See Clinical Studies)

In the estrogen plus progestin substudy of WHI, no statistically significant increase of CHD events was reported in women receiving CE/MPA compared to women receiving placebo (39 versus 33 per 10,000 women-years). An increase in relative risk was demonstrated in year 1, and a trend toward decreasing relative risk was reported in years 2 through 5. (See Clinical Studies)

In postmenopausal women with documented heart disease (n = 2,763, average age 66.7 years), in a controlled clinical trial of secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease (Heart and Estrogen/Progestin Replacement Study [HERS]) treatment with daily CE 0.625 mg/MPA 2.5 mg demonstrated no cardiovascular benefit. During an average follow-up of 4.1 years, treatment with CE/MPA did not reduce the overall rate of CHD events in postmenopausal women with established coronary heart disease. There were more CHD events in the CE/MPA-treated group than in the placebo group in year one, but not during the subsequent years. Two thousand three hundred and twenty-one (2,321) women from the original HERS trial agreed to participate in an open label extension of HERS, HERS II. Average follow-up in HERS II was an additional 2.7 years, for a total of 6.8 years overall. Rates of CHD events were comparable among women in the combined continuous CE/MPA treatment group and the placebo group in HERS, HERS II, and overall.

Venous thromboembolism (VTE)

In the estrogen alone substudy of WHI, the risk of VTE (DVT and pulmonary embolism [PE]) was reported to be increased for women receiving daily CE compared to women receiving placebo (30 versus 22 per 10,000 women-years), although only the increased risk of DVT reached statistical significance (23 versus 15 per 10,000 women-years). The increase in VTE risk was demonstrated during the first two years. (See Clinical Studies)

In the estrogen plus progestin substudy of WHI, a statistically significant two-fold greater rate of VTE was reported in women receiving daily CE/MPA compared to women receiving placebo (35 versus 17 per 10,000 women-years). Statistically significant increases in risk for both DVT (26 versus 13 per 10,000 women-years) and PE (18 versus 8 per 10,000 women-years) were also demonstrated. The increase in VTE risk was observed during the first year and persisted. (See Clinical Studies)

If feasible, estrogens should be discontinued at least 4 to 6 weeks before surgery of the type associated with an increased risk of thromboembolism, or during periods of prolonged immobilization.

Malignant neoplasms

Endometrial cancer

An increased risk of endometrial cancer has been reported with the use of unopposed estrogen therapy in women with a uterus. The reported endometrial cancer risk among unopposed estrogen users is about 2 to 12-times greater than in nonusers, and appears dependent on duration of treatment and on estrogen dose. Most studies show no significant increased risk associated with use of estrogens for less than 1 year. The greatest risk appears associated with prolonged use, with increased risks of 15 to 24-fold for 5 to 10 years or more. This risk has been shown to persist for at least 8 to 15 years after estrogen therapy is discontinued.

Clinical surveillance of all women taking estrogen plus progestin therapy is important. Adequate diagnostic measures, including endometrial sampling when indicated, should be undertaken to rule out malignancy in all cases of undiagnosed persistent or recurring abnormal vaginal bleeding. There is no evidence that the use of natural estrogens result in a different endometrial risk profile than synthetic estrogens of equivalent estrogen dose. Adding a progestin to estrogen therapy has been shown to reduce the risk of endometrial hyperplasia, which may be a precursor to endometrial cancer.

Breast cancer

The use of estrogens and progestins by postmenopausal women has been reported to increase the risk of breast cancer in some studies. Observational studies have also reported an increased risk of breast cancer for estrogen plus progestin therapy, and a smaller increased risk for estrogen alone therapy, after several years of use. The risk increased with duration of use, and appeared to return to baseline over about 5 years after stopping treatment (only the observational studies have substantial data on risk after stopping). Observational studies also suggest that the risk of breast cancer was greater, and became apparent earlier, with estrogen plus progestin therapy as compared to estrogen alone therapy. However, these studies have not found significant variation in the risk of breast cancer among different estrogen plus progestin combinations, doses, or routes of administration.

The most important randomized clinical trial providing information about this issue is the Women Health Initiative (WHI) substudy of daily conjugated estrogens (CE 0.625 mg) plus medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA 2.5 mg) (see Clinical Studies). In the estrogen alone substudy of WHI, after an average of 7.1 years of follow-up, daily CE 0.625 mg was not associated with an increased risk of invasive breast cancer (relative risk [RR] 0.80, 95 percent nominal confidence interval [nCI] 0.62-1.04).

In the estrogen plus progestin substudy, after a mean follow-up of 5.6 years, the WHI substudy reported an increased risk of breast cancer in women who took daily CE/MPA. In this substudy, prior use of estrogen alone or estrogen plus progestin therapy was reported by 26 percent of the women. The relative risk of invasive breast cancer was 1.24 (95 percent nCI, 1.01-1.54), and the absolute risk was 41 versus 33 cases per 10,000 women-years, for estrogen plus progestin compared with placebo, respectively. Among women who reported prior use of hormone therapy, the relative risk of invasive breast cancer was 1.86, and the absolute risk was 46 versus 25 cases per 10,000 women-years, for CE/MPA compared with placebo. Among women who reported no prior use of hormone therapy, the relative risk of invasive breast cancer was 1.09, and the absolute risk was 40 versus 36 per 10,000 women-years for estrogen plus progestin compared with placebo. In the same substudy, invasive breast cancers were larger and diagnosed at a more advanced stage in the CE/MPA group compared with the placebo group. Metastatic disease was rare with no apparent difference between the two groups. Other prognostic factors such as histologic subtype, grade, and hormone receptor status did not differ between the groups.

The use of estrogen alone and estrogen plus progestin has been reported to result in an increase in abnormal mammograms requiring further evaluation. All women should receive yearly breast exams by a healthcare provider and perform monthly self-examinations. In addition, mammography examinations should be scheduled based on patient age, risk factors, and prior mammogram results.

Ovarian cancer

The estrogen plus progestin substudy of WHI reported that daily CE/MPA increased the risk of ovarian cancer. After an average follow-up of 5.6 years, the relative risk for ovarian cancer for CE/MPA versus placebo was 1.58 (95 percent nCI, 0.77-3.24) but was not statistically significant. The absolute risk for CE/MPA was 4.2 versus 2.7 cases per 10,000 women-years. In some epidemiologic studies, the use of estrogen-only products, in particular for 10 or more years, has been associated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Other epidemiologic studies have not found these associations.

Dementia

In the estrogen alone Women's Health Initiative Memory Study (WHIMS), a substudy of WHI, a population of 2,947 hysterectomized women aged 65 to 79 years was randomized to daily conjugated estrogens (CE 0.625 mg) or placebo. In the estrogen plus progestin WHIMS substudy, a population of 4,532 postmenopausal women aged 65 to 79 years was randomized to daily CE 0.625 mg plus medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA 2.5 mg) or placebo.

In the estrogen alone substudy, after an average follow-up of 5.2 years, 28 women in the CE alone group and 19 women in the placebo group were diagnosed with probable dementia. The relative risk of probable dementia for estrogen CE alone versus placebo was 1.49 (95 percent CI, 0.83-2.66). The absolute risk of probable dementia for CE alone versus placebo was 37 versus 25 cases per 10,000 women-years. (See Clinical Studies and PRECAUTIONS, Geriatric Use.)

In the estrogen plus progestin substudy, after an average follow-up of 4 years, 40 women in the CE/MPA group and 21 women in the placebo group were diagnosed with probable dementia. The relative risk of probable dementia for CE/MPA versus placebo was 2.05 (95 percent CI, 1.21-3.48). The absolute risk of probable dementia for CE/MPA versus placebo was 45 versus 22 cases per 10,000 women-years. (See Clinical Studies and PRECAUTIONS, Geriatric Use.)

When data from the two populations were pooled as planned in the WHIMS protocol, the reported overall relative risk for probable dementia was 1.76 (95 percent CI, 1.19-2.60). Since both substudies were conducted in women aged 65 to 79 years, it is unknown whether these findings apply to younger postmenopausal women. (See BOXED WARNINGS and PRECAUTIONS, Geriatric Use.)

Gallbladder disease

A two- to four-fold increase in the risk of gallbladder disease requiring surgery in postmenopausal women receiving estrogens has been reported.

Hypercalcemia

Estrogen administration may lead to severe hypercalcemia in patients with breast cancer and bone metastases. If hypercalcemia occurs, use of the drug should be stopped and appropriate measures taken to reduce the serum calcium level.

Visual abnormalities

Retinal vascular thrombosis has been reported in patients receiving estrogens. Discontinue medication pending examination if there is sudden partial or complete loss of vision, or a sudden onset of proptosis, diplopia, or migraine. If examination reveals papilledema or retinal vascular lesions, estrogens should be discontinued.

PRECAUTIONS

General

Addition of a progestin when a woman has not had a hysterectomy

Studies of the addition of a progestin for 10 or more days of a cycle of estrogen administration, or daily with estrogen in a continuous regimen, have reported a lowered incidence of endometrial hyperplasia than would be induced by estrogen treatment alone. Endometrial hyperplasia may be a precursor to endometrial cancer.

There are, however, possible risks that may be associated with the use of progestins with estrogens compared to estrogen alone regimens. These include a possible increased risk of breast cancer, adverse effects on lipoprotein metabolism (lowering HDL, raising LDL), and impairment of glucose tolerance.

Elevated blood pressure

In a small number of case reports, substantial increases in blood pressure have been attributed to idiosyncratic reactions to estrogens. In a large, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial, a generalized effect of estrogen therapy on blood pressure was not seen. Blood pressure should be monitored at regular intervals with estrogen use.

Hypertriglyceridemia

In patients with preexisting hypertriglyceridemia, estrogen therapy may be associated with elevations of plasma triglycerides leading to pancreatitis and other complications. Consider discontinuation of treatment if pancreatitis or other complications develop.

Impaired liver function and past history of cholestatic jaundice

ESTRING (estradiol vaginal ring) vaginal ring should be used with caution in patients with impaired liver function. Estrogens may be poorly metabolized in patients with impaired liver function. For patients with a history of cholestatic jaundice associated with past estrogen use or with pregnancy, caution should be exercised and in the case of recurrence, medication should be discontinued.

Hypothyroidism

Estrogen administration leads to increased thyroid-binding globulin (TBG) levels. Patients with normal thyroid function can compensate for the increased TBG by making more thyroid hormone, thus maintaining free T4 and T3 serum concentrations in the normal range. Patients dependent on thyroid hormone replacement therapy who are also receiving estrogens may require increased doses of their thyroid replacement therapy. These patients should have their thyroid function monitored in order to maintain their free thyroid hormone levels in an acceptable range.

Hypocalcemia

Estrogens should be used with caution in individuals with severe hypocalcemia.

Fluid retention

Estrogens may cause some degree of fluid retention. Patients who have conditions that might be influenced by this factor, such as a cardiac or renal dysfunction, warrant careful observation when estrogens are prescribed.

Exacerbation of endometriosis

Endometriosis may be exacerbated with administration of estrogens. A few cases of malignant transformation of residual endometrial implants have been reported in women treated post-hysterectomy with estrogen alone therapy. For patients known to have residual endometriosis post-hysterectomy, the addition of progestin should be considered.

Exacerbation of other conditions

Estrogens may cause an exacerbation of asthma, diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, migraine or porphyria, systemic lupus erythematosus, and hepatic hemangiomas and should be used with caution in women with these conditions.

Location of ESTRING (estradiol vaginal ring)

Some women have experienced moving or gliding of ESTRING (estradiol vaginal ring) within the vagina. Instances of ESTRING (estradiol vaginal ring) being expelled from the vagina in connection with moving the bowels, strain, or constipation have been reported. If this occurs, ESTRING (estradiol vaginal ring) can be rinsed in lukewarm water and reinserted into the vagina by the patient.

Vaginal Irritation

ESTRING (estradiol vaginal ring) may not be suitable for women with narrow, short, or stenosed vaginas. Narrow vagina, vaginal stenosis, prolapse, and vaginal infections are conditions that make the vagina more susceptible to ESTRING (estradiol vaginal ring) -caused irritation or ulceration. Women with signs or symptoms of vaginal irritation should alert their physician.

Vaginal Infection

Vaginal infection is generally more common in postmenopausal women due to the lack of the normal flora of fertile women, especially lactobacillus, and the subsequent higher pH. Vaginal infections should be treated with appropriate antimicrobial therapy before initiation of ESTRING (estradiol vaginal ring) . If a vaginal infection develops during use of ESTRING (estradiol vaginal ring) , then ESTRING (estradiol vaginal ring) should be removed and reinserted only after the infection has been appropriately treated.

Information for the Patient

Physicians are advised to discuss the PATIENT INFORMATION leaflet with patients for whom they prescribe ESTRING (estradiol vaginal ring) .

Laboratory Tests

Serum follicle stimulating hormone and estradiol levels have not been shown to be useful in the management of moderate to severe symptoms of vulvar and vaginal atrophy.

Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, and Impairment of Fertility

Long-term continuous administration of natural and synthetic estrogens in certain animal species increases the frequency of carcinomas of the breast, uterus, cervix, vagina, testes and liver.

Pregnancy

ESTRING should not be used during pregnancy. (See CONTRAINDICATIONS.)

There appears to be little or no increased risk of birth defects in children born to women who have used estrogens and progestins as an oral contraceptive inadvertently during early pregnancy.

Nursing Mothers

ESTRING (estradiol vaginal ring) should not be used during lactation. Estrogen administration to nursing mothers has been shown to decrease the quantity and quality of the breast milk. Detectable amounts of estrogens have been identified in the milk of mothers receiving this drug.

Pediatric Use

ESTRING (estradiol vaginal ring) is not indicated for pediatric use and no clinical data have been collected in children.

Geriatric Use

There have not been sufficient numbers of geriatric patients involved in studies utilizing ESTRING (estradiol vaginal ring) to determine whether those over 65 years of age differ from younger subjects in their response to ESTRING (estradiol vaginal ring) .

In the estrogen alone substudy of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study, 46 percent (n = 4,943) of subjects were 65 years of age and older, while 7.1 percent (n = 767) of subjects were 75 years of age and older. There was a higher relative risk (daily CE 0.625 mg versus placebo) of stroke in women less than 75 years of age compared to women 75 years and older.

In the estrogen alone substudy of the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study (WHIMS), a substudy of WHI, a population of 2,947 hysterectomized women, aged 65 to 79 years of age, was randomized to receive daily conjugated estrogens (CE 0.625 mg daily) or placebo. After an average follow-up of 5.2 years, the relative risk (CE versus placebo) of probable dementia was 1.49 (95 percent CI, 0.83-2.66). The absolute risk of developing probable dementia with estrogen alone was 37 versus 25 cases per 10,000 women-years compared with placebo.

Of the total number of subjects in the estrogen plus progestin substudy of WHI, 44 percent (n = 7,320) were 65 years of age and older, while 6.6 percent (n = 1,095) were 75 years of age and older. In women 75 years of age and older compared to women less than 75 years of age, there was a higher relative risk of nonfatal stroke and invasive breast cancer in the estrogen plus progestin group versus placebo. In women greater than 75, the increased risk of nonfatal stroke and invasive breast cancer observed in the estrogen plus progestin group compared to placebo was 75 versus 24 per 10,000 women-years and 52 versus 12 per 10,000 women-years, respectively.

In the estrogen plus progestin WHIMS substudy, a population of 4,532 postmenopausal women, aged 65 to 79 years, was randomized to receive CE 0.625 mg/MPA 2.5 mg or placebo. In the estrogen plus progestin group, after an average follow-up of 4 years, the relative risk (CE/MPA versus placebo) of probable dementia was 2.05 (95 percent CI, 1.21-3.48). The absolute risk of developing probable dementia with CE/MPA was 45 versus 22 cases per 10,000 women-years compared with placebo.

Seventy-nine percent of the cases of probable dementia occurred in women that were older than 70 for the CE alone group, and 82 percent of the cases of probable dementia occurred in women who were older than 70 in the CE/MPA group. The most common classification of probable dementia in both the treatment groups and placebo groups was Alzheimer's disease.

When data from the two populations were pooled as planned in the WHIMS protocol, the reported overall relative risk for probable dementia was 1.76 (95 percent CI, 1.19-2.60). Since both substudies were conducted in women aged 65 to 79 years, it is unknown whether these findings apply to younger postmenopausal women. (See BOXED WARNINGS and WARNINGS, Dementia.)

Last reviewed on RxList: 10/16/2008
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

Warnings
Precautions
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