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Premarin was originally manufactured by Wyeth. In 2009, Pfizer Inc acquired its rival Wyeth for 68 billion dollars.[1] For more general information on Pfizer, see also main SourceWatch article Pfizer Inc.

Premarin & PMU ranches

The Bitter Truth about Premarin - United Animal Nations.

Premarin was approved by the USDA in 1942 for manufacture by the pharmaceutical company Wyeth. Premarin is a drug derived from pregnant mares’ urine (PMU), is prescribed for "symptoms of menopause". The urine is collected from mares confined in barns on over 70 "PMU ranches" in the United States and Canada. Despite the availability of humane and safer alternatives, Premarin is among the most widely prescribed and profitable drugs in America.

The industry is "self-regulated" through Pfizer's "Code of Practice". Mares in Premarin production commonly suffer from abrasions, leg swelling, excessive boredom, stress, and early death. Strapped to urine collection bags six months out of the year; they are tied to stalls too narrow to turn around or lie down in and are denied free access to water. There is no minimum code of practice for exercise or even that they be exercised at all. [2] In Canada, producers claim that approximately 5,600 PMU mares live on 70 contracted ranches primarily located in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Canada. The minimum stall width specified in the regulations­ (even for the largest draft breeds so commonly used) is a mere five feet. A typical PMU ranch consists of a small family and one hired ranch hand responsible for feeding, cleaning and exercising nearly 100 pregnant mares at a time.[3]

Mares in Premarin production foal every year for 8 to 9 years. [4] The organization that represents the interests of the PMU ranchers, the North American Equine Ranching Information Council (NAERIC), argues that it is "a testament to her health and strength" if a mare can have a foal each year for 20 years.[5]

Majority of 50,000 PMU foals sent to slaughter

After mares have ceased producing foals, they are sold for slaughter. (Their normal life expectancy is 20 to 25 years.) As for the foals, every year thousands of foals born on PMU ranches are sent to auction and also end up in slaughterhouses for meat markets in Europe and Japan. [6] According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), approximately 50,000 foals are born out of the PMU industry annually; most of which are sent to slaughter for overseas markets. The approximately 40,000 horses comprised of 20,000 mares and their foals, has created an impossible burden for existing rescue facilities, groups and sanctuaries. The majority of PMU farms are in North Dakota and Western Canada. [7]

PMU ranchers prohibited from working with rescues

To date, approximately $6.75 million dollars has been contributed to an "Equine Placement Fund". A paltry amount, considering the approximately one billion dollars in reported revenues from these drugs in 2006, and the tens of billions in drug revenues over all. In a shameless bid for public damage control, the company actually prohibited contract PMU ranchers from working with rescue groups. The rationale being that these abused, neglected horses, who along with their foals, are destined for slaughter; do not need to be rescued. At the industry's peak in the late 1990s and early 2000s, there were reports of as many as 70,000 PMU mares on 422 PMU ranches. When Wyeth began cutting contracts as a result of decreased demand, former ranchers were left with thousands of unwanted pregnant mares. Many had received little handling or training and were difficult to sell. Many former PMU ranchers also continued to breed their mares and sell the foals for slaughter. Thousands of foals are born each year at these former PMU ranches. [8]

Studies of Premarin health risks

Straight up from the horses bladder. -

A July 2002 study conducted by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) linked Premarin to increased risk of ovarian cancer. The study followed 44,241 women over 20 years. Women using estrogen alone had almost twice the risk of ovarian cancer compared to those not taking the hormone. Those using estrogen alone for 20 years or more were three times as likely to develop ovarian cancer.

In March of 2004, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) halted a clinical trial of 11,000 women taking the estrogen-only drug Premarin after researchers linked the hormone replacement therapy to increased risk of stroke.

In 2007, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices and the Division of Public Health Sciences, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, conducted an adverse reporting system review of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports spanning eight years. Estrogen was found to be the number one drug most likely to cause disability or other serious outcome. Estrogen caused over 11,514 serious health events in an 8 year period.[9]

Premarin increases risks of uterine cancer, heart attacks, strokes, breast cancer and blood clots. It may also increase risks of dementia in women 65 or older.[10], [11]

Other side reported side effects

Reported side effects of Premarin include sharp chest pain, lower leg pain, breast lumps, severe headaches, shortness of breath, coughing up blood, severe stomach pain or swelling, abnormal vaginal bleeding, mild dizziness, nausea and fluid retention. [12] See also Premarin side effects reported by women. [13], [14]

Example of Premarin lawsuit

According to this lawsuit, Wyeth and subsidiaries downplayed the dangers of menopause medications which caused permanent injuries. Targeted brands included Premarin, Provera and Prempro and thier generic equivalents, which have been linked to breast cancer, blood clots, heart attacks and strokes in recent studies. The lawsuit claimed that the pharmaceutical companies "tested, studied, designed, produced, marketed, promoted, packaged or otherwise placed these three drugs and their generic equivalents into the public stream of commerce." According to the lawsuit, the defendants "convinced doctors and patients that menopause was not the natural process of aging," but a disease requiring drug therapy; through advertising campaigns. [15]

Alternatives to Premarin

Lifestyle changes like exercise and diet can be effective alternatives. There are also FDA approved plant and synthetic medications available. According to Dr. Ray Kellosalmi, a Canadian physician involved in Premarin foal rescue:

"Unfortunately, it is easy and comfortable for physicians to prescribe drugs that have been around for a long time. It is also easy not to think about our contribution to the cruel chain of events that our prescriptions may allow, and thus the PMU industry is supported by our acquiescence. But the doomsday clock is again well on its way for tens of thousands of innocent lives that, once again, will end in terror needlessly. With a few strokes of the prescribing pen, we are able to decide the fate of future innocents." [16]

Drugs which are considered to be viable alternatives to Premarin include Cenestin, Estrace, Estraderm, Ogen, OrthoEst, Estratab, Menest, Estinyl, Estrovirus, OrthoDienestrol, Tace, and Climara.[17]

Articles & sources

SourceWatch articles


  1. Company Description: Pfizer Inc, Hoovers, accessed December 2009
  2. Premarin, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, accessed January 2011
  3. About Premarin: What happens to PMU mares?, United Animal Nations, accessed January 2011
  4. Premarin, ASPCA, accessed January 2011
  5. About Premarin: What happens to PMU mares?, United Animal Nations, accessed January 2011
  6. Premarin, ASPCA, accessed January 2011
  7. The HSUS Demands Wyeth Laboratories Take Responsibility for Premarin Horses, Humane Society of the United States, October 2003
  8. About Premarin: What has the pharmaceutical company done to help? & What makes this current horse crisis more complicated?, United Animal Nations, accessed January 2011
  9. Premarin, Injury Board, Sept 2007
  10. Prescription Drugs: Premarin, PDR Health, accessed August 2009
  11. Premarin,, January 2006
  12. Premarin, Injury Board, Sept 2007
  13. Premarin Side Effects Reported by Women and Denied by Doctors - Letters 2002,, accessed February 2009
  14. Premarin Side Effects Reported by Women and Denied by Doctors - Letters 2001,, accessed February 2009
  15. Eve Byron Second suit filed against Wyeth, Helena Independent Record, January 2005
  16. ASPCA Equine Program, ASPCA, accessed August 2009
  17. About Premarin: What can women do?, United Animal Nations, accessed January 2011

External articles

External resources