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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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