Written by RACHEL STONE
Did y’ever see the musical Oklahoma? Remember the character Ali Hakim? It’s funny but whenever I read something about Wyeth, I think of him – a truly self-serving man who only did the right thing when lookin’ down the barrel of a gun.
I wonder what, if anything, would inspire Robert Essner to do the right thing. Bob Essner is the current CEO of Wyeth as well as the company’s President and Chairman of the Board. Bob earned over 24 million dollars for his little ol’ self in 2007, a bit less than his 2006 earnings of 32 million. Poor Bob. But I guess that’s the way it goes when you’re profiteering from sickness and suffering.
A large portion of Bob’s earnings come from Wyeth’s hormone replacement therapy (HRT) drugs – what Wyeth calls their Premarin® Family of drugs which include Premarin®, Premphase® and Prempro®. Most of you probably already know that Premarin® is short for pregnant mare’s urine. But just in case, yes siree, these drugs are made with conjugated equine estrogens (CEE) collected from the urine of pregnant horses. The circumstances the mares, foals and stallions face during their interface with the PMU farmers, and afterwards (their lives often end in slaughter for human consumption overseas) are questionable at best.
Premarin® has been around since 1942 and for decades, horse folks and animal rights activists shouted loudly about a variety of abuses the horses endured. The results were minimal. But in 2002, when a study undertaken by the Women’s Health Initiative disclosed that the use of Wyeth’s HRT drugs increased the risks of strokes, blood clots, heart attacks, heart disease and breast cancer in women, pee hit the fan. Sales plummeted 32% in 2003 and another 31% in 2004.
That was bad news for Bob but great news for horses. The reduction in sales led to a reduction in the number of mares required by Wyeth. In addition, Wyeth reworked its HRT drug formulae to enhance the safety of these drugs. The new formulae required less CEE and, as a result, reduced the number of mares under contract further. It was estimated that in 2002 there were between 40,000 and 50,000 mares peeing for Wyeth. Today, there are just 5,600.
But since 2005, sales have steadily gained. In 2007 alone, the Premarin® Family of drugs earned Wyeth $1,055,300,000. That’s a lot of money! Though still less then the $1.9 billion Wyeth earned in 2002. And with sales just over half of what they used to be, Bob’s gotta’ do something, right?
Y’ever heard of Aprela? Aprela, is a new drug under development at Wyeth that targets both menopause symptoms and osteoporosis. The drug is now in phase 3 clinical trials and expected to be submitted for FDA approval during the first half of 2009. Aprela’s success could be a real boon for Bob. According to International Marketing Services (IMS), the osteoporosis market is much larger than the menopause market – generating international sales of $8.9 billion in 2007. And guess what. Aprela contains the same CEE found in Wyeth’s Premarin® Family of drugs. Talk about smart marketing! Not only did Bob rename the drug, he’s mixed it with a new batch of ingredients, targeted a larger market and targeted a market that’s expected to increase as baby-boomers age!
How might this affect the horses? Well, if decreased sales reduced the need for horse pee, wouldn’t increased sales reverse that trend? As it stands, there are at least 5600 reasons why these drugs should no longer be made in my opinion. Will Wyeth once again “hire” tens of thousands of mares in order to collect their excrement? How many more unwanted horse babies will be born each year? How many more horse moms will have to stand in a 3 1/2’ X 8’ stall for a solid six months out of every year? Since I couldn’t get anyone from Wyeth on the phone or via email, the questions linger.
I haven’t experienced menopause yet so I can’t say from experience that Wyeth’s HRT drugs are or aren’t the be all and end all. But I do know there are plenty of tested, effective plant and synthetic alternatives on the market these days. And I do know women transitioned through menopause drug-free for millennia (and still do). And I know one more thing – I’m jist a girl who cain say no to Bob and his golden circle of cronies. Where’s Ado-Annie’s pa got to anyway?
© Tuesday’s Horse
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rachel Stone loves, yet at the same time fears, horses. She’s currently taking equine science courses in hopes of overcoming her neurosis.
One day Rachel hopes to morph into a centaur with wings and eventually found a sanctuary where equines of all kinds, from all places, can live in peace. In the meantime, Rachel works as a valued member of the Fund for Horses Team.
— Stay tuned for more on this issue in coming weeks.