How the US Government and The Media Conspired to Convince Women That Menopausal Hormone Therapy Was Dangerous

Published: 2nd July 2020

Professor James Simon is a Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Reproductive Endocrinology at George Washington University in Washington DC and also the President of the International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH) and Past President of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS). The Professor recently gave a lecture explaining how medical journalism and the media have been misrepresenting HRT as dangerous, particularly since the WHI (Women's Health Initiative) study was first publicised in 2002.

Speaking of his talk, entitled "How the US Government and The Media Conspired to Convince Women That Menopausal Hormone Therapy Was Dangerous", Professor Simon said: 

The well-intentioned, National Institutes of Health (NIH)-sponsored Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) consists of a series of investigations developed in the 1990s to answer complicated women’s health questions. The impact of menopausal hormone therapy on cardiovascular disease, the #1 killer of women, being exemplary.

The first results were publicised in July 2002 at a press conference and followed by a flurry of papers in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Recent reviews and exposés, newer publications from the NIH, and re-analyses reveal unconscionable bias and spin in the initial reporting. A pattern of scandalous perfunctory reviews by JAMA validated the biased presentation of the data and undermined the peer-review process and credibility of that journal. This lecture, meant for a diverse professional audience, is my attempt to provide balance and focus on how these revered institutions (NIH, JAMA, FDA, etc.) need to be held accountable for misleading the world’s women about menopausal hormone therapy.

The enlightening hour-long lecture aims to give the audience a better understanding of the true benefits and risks of HRT and to acknowledge common myths that have stemmed from the original misrepresented data.

Dr Louise Newson said "I honestly feel that all healthcare professionals (and all menopausal women) should watch this, to have a really balanced understanding of what went wrong with the misreporting of HRT risks to both the public, and the medical literature. [Professor Simon's] knowledge of statistics is incredible and this lecture is certainly one of the best I have ever heard".

Those who have viewed the lecture should be able to:

  • Apply relevant data and not media hype to educate patients and other healthcare professionals in guiding them through HRT decision-making
  • Understand the misreporting of the WHI Hormone Studies by the media and in medical literature
  • Improve your personal understanding of the risks and benefits of HRT
  • Have a better appreciation of and appropriate context for the true risks of HRT

Click here to watch the full lecture

You may also find the following timings breakdown useful to help pinpoint specific elements of the lecture:

03:34 - Misreporting of WHI Hormone Studies

13:24 - Problems with observational studies of CVD risk with HRT in menopausal women

15:34 - History of HRT: disease prevention

19:25 - HRT and breast cancer risk

28:28 - Rates of use of HRT since WHI study

29:36 - HRT as a potential treatment of breast cancer

34:18 - Breast cancer as a secondary outcome in WHI Hormone Studies

47:48 - HRT and ovarian cancer risk and its media reporting

50:09 - Cardiovascular disease as a primary outcome in the WHI Hormone Studies

52:21 - Vaginal estrogen safety labelling being incorrect

57:20 - Conclusions from WHI Hormone Studies

1:01:09 Conclusions from presentation


Newson Health Menopause and Wellbeing Centre was launched in 2018 by leading menopause specialist and GP, Dr Louise Newson. Created to help women receive the most appropriate, individualised and holistic treatment for their perimenopause and menopause, it has quickly become a centre of excellence, providing care to women of all ages, both via remote consultations and in-person at clinics in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire and Lymm, Cheshire.

A passionate and tireless campaigner for better menopause care for all women, Dr Newson has also founded the Menopause Doctor website, The Menopause Charity, the balance app, Newson Health Research and Education and written a best-selling Haynes Manual on Menopause.

The Menopause Doctor website is a free resource providing a huge amount of unbiased, evidence based information about the menopause and perimenopause for women and healthcare professionals. The site has been adopted by the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) as an official educational library for menopause. Visit www.menopausedoctor.co.uk.

The Menopause Charity was founded in 2020, with trustees including sustainable health expert Professor Matthew Cripps and media ambassadors Davina McCall, Lorraine Kelly, Liz Earle and Meg Mathews. The charity has many exciting plans to help women and their families and colleagues with the challenges caused by the menopause, including an educational website, professionally staffed helpline and fundraising for research activities. Visit www.themenopausecharity.org.

‘balance’ is a free app that was developed to enable women to track their symptoms, access personalised expert content, share stories and lots more. Get the balance app at www.balance-app.com.

Newson Health Research and Education is a not-for-profit organisation from which all profits are invested back into the business. A Confidence in Menopause educational platform has been developed specifically for healthcare professionals and can be found at https://www.fourteenfish.com/menopause/subscribe

The Haynes Manual on Menopause is a definitive guide to help women, their partners and families cut through the plethora of misinformation and take a straightforward look at menopause. Find out more at www.newsonhealth.co.uk/resources/menopause-manual.