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Dr Heather Currie, Menopause Matters & NICE

December 5, 2015

My passing comment last week (click here) that the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) had identified both variation in, and lack of, menopause treatment provision in the UK, on the basis of a pressure group’s website, provoked a colleague to ask who was behind it.

Good question. Who was it, who was judged to be so authoritative that NICE directed policy makers (commissioners and clinical commissioning groups) to them for advice on whether new local services are needed (click here)?

MenopauseUK.org (click here) has not been updated since 28.10.2014. The “about” link (click here) leads to the statement that it is a policy network for three other organisations, the Daisy Network, the Hysterectomy Association and Menopause Matters . The links to all three are faulty, but (thanks Google) the first two are patient support groups for women who have undergone premature ovarian failure, or hysterectomy respectively.

The third is different. Menopause Matters (click here) claims to be an independent clinician-led website, and woman’s magazine, devoted to the menopause.  The managing director is Dr. Heather Currie an associate specialist in gynaecology in Dumfries and Galloway. Almost all the signed articles in the magazine and on the website are authored by her, she offers a personal £25 email advice service, and sells her books Menopause Answers at Your Fingertips, and Menopause Essentials.

Dr Currie is the editor of Post Reproductive Health (formerly Menopause International) the official journal of the British Menopause Society of which she is also chair. She writes many editorials (e.g. here, here, and here); all opinion pieces downplaying the risk of, and advocating wider prescription of hormone therapy (HT)*. Her articles in the Menopause Matters magazine, available on the website are couched for non-professional readers but give the same message – women are being deprived of effective HT treatment by doctors who foolishly believe the WHI trials.

She declares no conflicts of interests either on the website, the magazine or in her Post Reproductive Health editorials. But according to another article (click here) she “has received educational grants, lecture fees and advisory board fees from several pharmaceutical companies.” Another (click here) in which she declared similar unspecified conflicts, had been ghost written for her “Medical writing assistance […] supported by Pfizer”.  At the 9th European Congress on Menopause and Andropause in March 2012 in Athens she spoke at a Novo Nordisk sponsored symposium (click here).

Help with writing favourable articles and sponsored trips to warm country conferences are common practice, but Dr Currie’s involvement goes deeper. This link is to an expensive report for pharma executives (a single copy costs £1,499) entitled Women’s Reproductive Disorders Therapeutics 2008-2018. According to the contents list the report includes four interviews with Dr Currie, and if the headline of one (subsection 5.2.3) is correct  she saw “Signs of Hope Seen for HRT Market since Earlier Negative Publicity” as far back as 2008.

I have no reason to doubt that Dr Currie is an excellent and experienced doctor, prescribing HT only to those of her menopausal patients for whom she judges the benefits to outweigh the risks. But less experienced doctors who read her articles, and patients who get advice from her magazine, might like to know that she has not just been paid to speak and write about HT but also to advise the drug manufacturers on how to sell more.

The evidence that she is involved with the website to which NICE directs clinical commissioners for advice about whether they need to set up more menopause services in their region, is circumstantial; based only on a broken hyperlink.  But NICE might want to investigate.

Jim Thornton

*Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) changed to hormone therapy (HT) Jan 2016

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. Pat permalink
    January 17, 2019 5:33 pm

    Hi Jim,

    I have reached menopause a couple of years ago and I’m balancing the pros and cons of hormonal therapy. I have been reading hundreds of posts on the Menopause Matters forum and I agree with you that there’s something going on besides menopause support and discussion. The forum has some members who keep pushing hormones (and brand names) to new members who are desperate to relieve their symptoms. One member is recognised as ‘knowledgeable’ by most members because she has knowledge of all HRT types and she’s adamant: ‘you can have HRT for as long as you like because the benefits outweigh the risks’. She is always quoting scientific articles to backup her claims, which would be very welcome IF the majority of those article’s authors haven’t been sponsored by Pharmaceutical companies.
    I’m not in the UK so I don’t have online access to most NICE documents (that happens only in the UK, all FDA documents are available online), so I’d like to ask you a question: do you still think, after 3 years, that NICE is interested in investigating group’s websites?

  2. Pat permalink
    January 18, 2019 9:30 pm

    I’d also like to ask you if your view on this subject has changed in the last 3 years, since you’ve written this post.

    • January 19, 2019 4:02 pm

      Not really. Not aware of any new primary studies which would change WHI conclusion. I’m not against menopausal hormone therapy for symptoms. Just against it for health promotion. And against paternalistic gynaecologists (of both sexes) who infantilise vulnerable women.

      • Pat permalink
        January 19, 2019 4:39 pm

        Thank you, much appreciated.

  3. Pat permalink
    January 19, 2019 4:52 pm

    Sorry, just one more question…

    I’ve read this statement a number of times on articles, forums and news, but I could never find any studies or references corroborating it.

    “A year supply of topical oestrogen is equivalent to having one tablet of standard HRT”

    Recently I’ve read it again on a Patient.info article by Dr. Willacy and I have emailed her to ask for the reference. She has replied that it is taken from the PCWHF guidelines. https://www.guidlines.co.uk/womens-health/pcwhf-management-of-urogenital-atrophy-or-gsm-guideline/453572.article

    My questions are: How does the PCWHF know that? Where does this information come from?

  4. Pat permalink
    January 19, 2019 4:55 pm

    Sorry, couldn’t edit my post…

    This is the right link: https;//www.guidelines.co.uk/womens-health/pcwhf-management-of-urogenital-atrophy-or-gsm-guideline/453572.article

  5. Pat permalink
    February 5, 2019 4:44 pm

    Well, I have just been banned from Menopause Matters forum. I guess they are monitoring your blog.

  6. Pat permalink
    February 5, 2019 4:55 pm

    Nothing about you blog! I have been questioning a lot of HRT advertising through old members and things like the lack of long term studies on the safety of vaginal oestrogen, and that made them uncomfortable. I suppose they have been tracking down my email elsewhere on the internet. Can you believe I can’t even open the forum page? They have blocked IP’s from Brazil, the whole country!

    • February 5, 2019 5:08 pm

      Suppose they’re entitled to block who they like. Fraid I can’t help. Only women allowed, & a bit creepy to secretly register. Oh well. You’ll have to get a VPN. 🙂

  7. Pat permalink
    February 5, 2019 5:12 pm

    Yes, I know 😂 Thank you for answering. You’re a breath of fresh air amidst this crap.
    Some members have a theory that the actual admin is a bloke 😂

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