Get the Facts - Is PMU Right for You?

By Melissa Iozzo, Technical Specialist

Having been raised by a self proclaimed "flower child" of the 60's who survived Woodstock and multiple Washington front step war protests, I was not surprised to learn of my mother's 100% natural drug free childbirths of both myself and my sister; nor of her tireless efforts to feed the two of us 100% whole/organic foods until we were old enough to make decisions on our own (and maybe a little while thereafter).

In fact, in her 50 (or so) years on this planet, my mom has bewildered me with her "eco smart" choices; whether it be raising pigs and goats rescued from slaughterhouses in our backyard, being a vegetarian since the age of 14, or her ability to steer clear of the flu, cold season, and any other impending illness possibly carried by the children she has nannied over the years by following a strict regiment of garlic tablets, breathing, and exercise. It was only recently that she completely threw me off guard when she spoke to me about something her doctor recommended - Premarin.

My mother's doctor had recommended this drug to help my mom, as it at helped so many other woman (and continues to) but she failed to educate my mother on what the drug was, where it came from, as well as the options for synthetic alternatives. After collecting at least 3 "what do you mean"s from her friends, I decided it most necessary to educate them, as well as myself, on the alternatives available.

Premarin (conjugated estrogen tablets) are used to reduce the symptoms of menopause in women. Premarin - or PREgnant MARes urINe, comes from just that. Premarin is solely produced by one company in the entire world; it was originally placed on the market in 1942, and today more than 9 million women worldwide are taking it. Some facts;

  • Premarin is the only human estrogen replacement drug that is derived from animals (and is 100% natural).
  • The drug is Canada's most lucrative export trade, and brings in about $130 million a year in revenue.
  • Over 9 million woman use Premarin regularly today.
  • In comparison to synthetics, Premarin has been shown to be the safest hormone replacement drug on the market today (arguably, it has also been available for much longer than any of the newer synthetics).
  • It is estimated that if women switched to synthetics, the cost saving would be an estimated 300 million a year.
  • There are many synthetic drugs available, most are FDA approved and show to have less side effect than Premarin.
  • Though not proven, studies show that Premarin is thought to help prevent breast cancer, urethra cancer, and Alzheimer's.

But what about the animals? An estimated 75,000 horses a year are affected by Premarin, or PEE farms in North America, if you take into account the mares, replacement mares, stallions, and foals conceived. For many supporters of Premarin, the argument is as stands; if Premarin production stopped now, approximately 40,000 mares would have to go to slaughter today. The reality is that approximately 15,000 foals go to slaughter each year from PEE farms - so what's worse? The facts:

  • Premarin, or PEE farms are regulated solely by a "code of practice". This is 100% voluntary and is arguably less than the standards mandated for slaughterhouses.
  • Premarin only comes from the urine of a pregnant mare.
  • Mares produce 90-100 gallons of urine per year, and since the more concentrated the better, PEE farms practice keeping their mares dehydrated, often producing weak, unusable offspring, and in turn degrading the health of the mare.
  • Since the mares need to have all of their urine collected, they are fitted with UCDs (urine collection devices) for the length of their pregnancy (usually September to April), and kept in small, "straight" stalls to inhibit movement.
  • Mares can produce and be profitable for many consecutive years. When they can no longer conceive, over 95% are untrained / unmanageable and sent to slaughter where they are generally sold as food in the UK.
  • After birth, foals are nursed at pasture for 3-4 months, until the mare is ready to take again. The foals are then sent to farms to either be fattened up, or, if the breed is desirable, some PEE farmers will try to sell the foals as riding prospect (this is less than 5%). The other 95% get sold to slaughter houses - from anywhere to $250 - $650 depending on how much weight they have put on.
  • There are numerous farms / programs today that are adopting PMU babies and training them for resale (just Google PMU babies for a list near you).

My mother opted to try a synthetic and it is working for her. Her best friend, and close friend of mine, has been using Premarin for many years under the supervision of her doctor. She has tried synthetics - but nothing has worked.

Being an animal lover myself who has worked with PMU babies on multiple occasions, I can't see myself using a product like this when there are so many options out there available. In my research, however, I have been amazed to find so many woman taking Premarin who don't know what it is, where it comes from, or what the animals who produce it endure everyday. I can only ask people to educate themselves, as well as the women in their lives - and make up your own minds!
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