President’s Message:

Premarin – Cruelty to Horses

Rescued horse Sunny and Susan C. McDonough
Rescued horse Sunny and President Susan C. McDonough

I just finished a magnificent book by Robert Vavra called “Horses of the Sun.” It is a collection of unspeakably beautiful photographs and poetry written about these magical, mystical creatures. One unforgettable photo reveals a brilliant white Andalucian stallion prancing in a flower covered field. Next to the photo is a poem that reads “A horse without a rider will always be a charger of the gods, but a man without a horse will only be a man.”

That statement struck me and stuck with me. It made me realize that there are other people besides me, who believe that horses are really something special.

A few days later I received something horribly shocking in the mail — a brochure about Premarin! The brochure was sent by Equine Advocates, an equine welfare organization based in Flushing, NY. What a setback! The word “Premarin” comes from its contents: pregnant mares urine (PMU). Since 1947, this drug produced by Wyeth-Ayerst has been prescribed by doctors to treat the symptoms of menopause in women.

What are the costs to the horses? Cruelty, for one. In 1997, Sue Wagner, president of Equine Advocates, accompanied a film crew to the Canadian Province of Manitoba, in the heart of PMU country. There she saw hundreds of pregnant mares harnessed with urine collection pouches fitted over their urethras, causing infections of their vulvas and chafing of their legs. Due to this type of apparatus and confinement in small stalls, the mares cannot lie down. Some had been standing in the same position for 7 months on concrete floors, resulting in swelling of the legs. They are deliberately rationed water to concentrate the estrogen, making liver and kidney disease a common problem.

The foals are merely a by-product of the industry. Wagner visited two feedlots where many of the PMU foals born to the 52,000 plus mares are fattened and stockpiled before being shipped to slaughter.

Wyeth-Ayerst, a division of American Home Products, is headquartered near Philadelphia. According to Equine Advocates, the company grosses over a billion dollars a year from Premarin and has blocked all generic substitutes.

Premarin, believed to curtail osteoporosis and heart disease, may be responsible for a host of women’s health problems including some breast and uterine cancers. Also, the health risks to women from absorbing a substance made from equine waste is not fully known.

Many well-known doctors, such as Dr. Allan Warshowsky (obstetrician), Dr. Don Sloan (gynecologist), and Dr. R. M. Kellosalmi (surgeon) of Peachtree Medical Center agree that there are natural plant-based alternatives available such as Estradiol and Pri-Est which your doctor can prescribe in lieu of Premarin with the same results. In addition, there are synthetic alternatives such as Estraderm, Ogen, and Estrace available. None of these products use horse urine.

What can you do?

  • Write to Dr. Janet Woodcock at the FDA, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD, 20857 and express your demand for that agency’s prompt approval of one or more synthetic/generic forms of Premarin.
  • Write to Equine Advocates, 76-04 Main St., Suite 185 Flushing, NY 11367 and obtain copies of the “Premarin Cycle of Cruelty” brochures to place in your doctors office’s in your area.
  • Spread the word about Premarin and the cruel way that it’s produced! Ask your doctor to offer and prescribe alternative hormone replacement therapy medications.

Together, we can end this unnecessary suffering of innocent horses.

Susan C. McDonough

New York State Humane Association Humane Review, Vol.XII, No.2, Summer 1998.