JoAnn Pinkerton, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Virginia, Executive Director of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), and OBG Management Board of Editors Member, revealed the 2016 NAMS position statement on hormone therapy (HT) in Orlando, Florida, on Thursday, October 6, at the NAMS 2016 Annual Scientific Meeting.
The process of consensus among the more than 20 menopause experts who authored the 2016 statement was at times a challenge, indicated Pinkerton, given the variance in views on the significance of published clinical trial findings since the Society’s 20121 HT position statement. Over a 9-month period, the experts developed guidelines for clinicians, using levels of evidence to identify strength of the recommendations.
The clearest benefit for HT to treat hot flashes and prevent bone loss was found for women aged younger than 60 years and within 10 years of menopause onset.
According to the 2016 statement presented at NAMS:
Level I US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved indications for HT include:
- as first-line therapy for women with vasomotor symptoms (VMS) of menopause without contraindications
- possible first-line therapy for prevention of bone loss and fracture in postmenopausal women at elevated risk for fracture (primarily for women aged younger than 60 years and within 10 years of menopause onset)
- low-dose vaginal estrogen as first-line treatment for women with isolated genitourinary symptoms caused by menopause (genitourinary syndrome of menopause [GSM]/vulvovaginal atrophy).
Level II FDA-approved indications for HT include:
- at least until age 52 (the median age of menopause onset) for women with early onset menopause (women with hypogonadism, primary ovarian insufficiency, or premature surgical menopause) and no HT contraindications.
Other level II indications, with observational data indicating benefit over risk, for HT include:
- at least until the median age of menopause for women with early onset menopause
- consideration among women with a family history of breast cancer, although family history is one risk among many for breast cancer that should be assessed
- benefit/risk consideration for women with a BRCA gene mutation who have undergone risk-reducing oophorectomy
- consideration of systemic use until the median age of menopause—after appropriate counseling and in the absence of HT contraindications, with longer duration of HT use individualized.
Level III indications for HT include:
- individualized decisions on use after the age of 60. (The position statement authors did not find that the current Beers criteria recommendation to routinely discontinue HT at age 65 was supported by data.)
The 2016 bottom line on HT
Overall, HT has clear benefits for the treatment of VMS and bone loss prevention, according to the presented position statement. These benefits are most favorable among women aged younger than 60 years who are within 10 years of menopause onset and have no contraindications to HT use. Women older than age 60 who initiate HT beyond 10 years of menopause onset appear to have a less favorable benefit-risk ratio because of elevated risks of coronary heart disease, stroke, venous thromboembolism, and dementia.
The risks of HT vary among women depending on the HT type, duration of use, administration route, timing of treatment initiation, and whether a progestogen is needed. (With longer HT use, estrogen therapy is more favorable than estrogen-progestin therapy.) Therefore, HT should be individualized and reevaluated periodically to maximize the benefits as well as minimize the risks of use, according to the position statement.