WHAT ARE “BIOIDENTICAL HORMONES?”
There is much confusion and misinformation when it comes to “bioidentical hormones.”
- “Bioidentical hormones” does not mean the hormones are “organic.”
- “Bioidentical hormones” does not mean the hormones are “natural.”
- “Bioidentical hormones” does not mean the hormones are “not really hormones.”
“Bioidentical hormones” means that the chemical makeup of the hormones exactly matches the chemical makeup in the same hormones in your body. It can be man-made, but the molecular components are exactly the same as that same hormone in your body. For example, if you look at bioidentical estrogen under a microscope it would look exactly the same as the estrogen your body makes. It could have been created all chemically, in a laboratory, but the components of the compound match your body.
Why are there hormones that are not bioidentical?
For one thing, bioidentical hormones cannot be patented. The same way you can’t patent water, unless you add some flavorings to it, you can’t patent estrogen unless there is something different about your estrogen. So drug companies are incented to change the chemical compound. Sometimes makers of specific hormones suggest that the difference they have made is a “good” difference and thus justify the changes. We haven’t found that to be the case. In general we find that women seem to respond better to bioidentical hormones.
Since many women prefer the bioidentical compounds, drug companies have found ways to patent bioidentical hormones by developing better or unique delivery systems: a specific cream to hold the compound, a patch, a pellet.
Are compounded hormones and bioiedentical hormones the same thing?
No, but it’s a common misconception. “Compounded” medication (or hormones) is medication that is individually mixed or prepared in a lab, usually for a specific patient or for a specific indication. If your doctor wants you to use a cream that is made of two different medical compounds (say estrogen and testosterone) and there isn’t a commercial one already created, a compounding pharmacy can mix the two products in a base for you. So there are doctors who will send you to a compounding pharmacy in order to get something unique that’s not on the market. And sometimes there are compounding pharmacies who themselves decide to mix a few different “ingredients” together because they believe that they work for a specific problem. The compounding pharmacy will then speak to your doctor about writing you the appropriate script.
The good thing about using a compounding pharmacy is that the pharmacist can individualize medication concoctions for you. The problematic issue with compounding pharmacies is that, precisely because it is individualized, it’s less exact in its formulas, more likely to have human error or even minor differentiations between one batch of medication and another. So whether or not to use a compounding pharmacy will be a decision based on what products may or may not be on the market currently, how much you trust any particular pharmacy and what your doctor sees are the necessary products for you to use.
But it is critical to remember that the fact that a product is made in a compounding pharmacy does not suggest that the ingredients that they are using are necessarily bioidentical, natural or better for you in any way.
Does Maze Women’s Health only use bioidentical hormones?
Yes. We believe that for the most part hormones that match the chemical compounds in your own body will be better for you in the long run. And we don’t see any reason to use non-bioidentical hormones. Most of the bioidentical medications we use will be FDA approved products and will be available at a general pharmacy.
Sometimes we will prescribe products which have only been approved for men, but they will still be bioidentical.
In cases when we need a product compounded (or made individually for a particular patient) we will refer the patient to a compounding pharmacy that we trust and ask them to use only bioidentical hormones.
In A Patient’s Own Words:
At 45 years old I finally found the treatment that I need! After years of living with undiagnosed hormone imbalances and unsuccessful infertility treatments, I found myself in Menopause at the age of 39. My symptoms included hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, low libido and increased levels of anxiety. I tried several alternative treatments but with no success I decided to try the bio-identical hormones that I began reading about through my research.
After seeking treatment with several doctors who didn’t get it quite right, I finally found Tara and Bat Sheva at Maze Women’s Health. I cannot thank them enough! After the first week of treatment my hot flashes were completely gone and I began sleeping through the night. It has been a year now and with the new addition of the testosterone pellet in my treatment plan, life just got even better!
– K, Age 45 –