Women's Health Funding Refused Regarding Probable Low Estrogen / COVID Death Link

Published: 19th August 2020

GP and Menopause Specialist, Dr Louise Newson, has revealed how women's health research funding has been refused despite data showing women with lower levels of estrogen experience an increased severity and higher death rate from COVID-19.

"It is known that women have a stronger immunity than men to infections including viruses. Some of these differences are due to the action of estrogen which works to improve the function and number of cells that work in our immune function. These cells have estrogen receptors on them so are stimulated by estrogen which can improve the way they work and also the number of cells and their genetic programming.

Data has shown that over 70% of deaths from COVID-19 are in males. Men are more likely to have more severe disease and are also more likely to die from COVID-19. There have been less deaths from COVID-19 in women who are young, pregnant and also those taking HRT or the combined oral contraceptive pill. Linking all these women is that they all have estrogen in their bodies.

A study from Wuhan has shown that women with low estrogen levels had more severe infection with COVID-19 so I have been working with other researchers on the hypothesis that estrogen works to reduce the severity and death rate from COVID-19 in women.

Results from the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium (ISARIC) for COVID data have raised the possibility that women taking HRT (which contains estrogen) have a lower risk of death from COVID-19 compared to women not taking HRT. These women were matched for age and other medical conditions. This is robust data that has been obtained from looking at around 60% of hospital admission data of patients proven to have COVID-19 in England, Scotland and Wales.

I am working with a national consortium of leading academics from Liverpool University and other institutions. We have applied for funding to do more research in this area and study the underlying mechanisms but we have been unsuccessful in securing funding and turned down for a grant. Clearly this discrimination against research in women’s health is very disappointing and also perplexing because this is a large Public Health problem which needs addressing.

We are continuing to work in this area and the other researchers I am working with are currently giving their time for free to undertake further research into this area.

This is a key piece of work showing that estrogen is protective against mortality from COVID-19 in women who take HRT.

Taking HRT also provides other benefits including having a lower future risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity which are all risk factors for mortality from COVID-19."

Newson Health Menopause and Wellbeing Centre was founded by leading menopause specialist and GP, Dr Louise Newson, and officially opened in September 2018 by Liz Earle MBE. Created to help women receive the most appropriate, individualised treatment for their perimenopause and menopause, it has quickly become a centre of excellence, providing care to women of all ages, as well as running educational events for primary care clinicians.

Dr Newson is also the founder of the Menopause Doctor website, a free resource since 2017, providing the latest unbiased, evidence based information about the menopause and perimenopause for women as well as the most recent national and international menopause articles and guidelines for healthcare professionals. The website has been adopted by the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) as an official educational library aimed at patients and healthcare professionals wishing to learn more about the menopause.

Newson Health Research and Education is a not-for-profit organisation founded by Dr Newson, from which all profits gained from the organisation's activities, such as event sponsorship, delegate fees and speaker's fees, are invested back into the business.