The Rise and Fall of the PMU Industry

Written by JANE ALLIN
Research Analyst | Int’l Fund for Horses

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer acquired major drug manufacturer, Wyeth, for 68 billion dollars. Missing from the upbeat reports about the lucrative merger is the cost in horse lives as a result of Wyeth's production of the hormone replacement therapy (HRT) drug Premarin. Most estimates put the horse death toll linked to Premarin at well over one million.
Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer acquired major drug manufacturer, Wyeth, for 68 billion dollars. Missing from the upbeat reports about the lucrative merger is the cost in horse lives as a result of Wyeth's production of the hormone replacement therapy (HRT) drug Premarin. Most estimates put the horse death toll linked to Premarin at well over one million.

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A recent report by Agriculture Canada gives tenuous optimism for the stopping of suffering of the mares and foals at the mercy of the pregnant mare’s urine (PMU) industry. Giant drug manufacturer Wyeth, a division of Pfizer, has announced they intend to downsize the industry through the cancellation of PMU ranch contracts that will see their numbers dwindle from the current 64 to as few as 25.

During the halcyon days of Premarin’s® monopoly of the HRT market there were in excess of 40,000 brood mares emptying their hackneyed bladders of concentrated estrogens destined for incompatible tissues of menopausal women, some of whom would die as a consequence of deficient science and political greed. With the reduction in PMU operations, there will be a meager 2,000 mares expected to supply the needs of a multi-million dollar industry fraught with deceit, avarice and the abhorrent solicitation of the FDA by Big Pharma.

What is perplexing is the apparent decrease in the quantity of equine estrogens estimated to fulfill the perceptible demand for the Premarin® family of drugs and the novel combination osteoporosis/HRT drug Aprela® destined for release in 2012. According to the article, Wyeth is interested in maintaining smaller farming ventures that would limit the amount of estrogen produced to 10,000 grams per contract. Some basic math will further reveal the ambiguity of this intriguing equation.

If 25 farms each produce a total of 10,000 grams of conjugated equine estrogens (CEEs) this equates to a total harvest of 250,000 grams of CEE per annum. For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume that the average amount of CEE contained in a Premarin®-related product is 0.45 mg based on the mid-range of available dosages and presumably the most commonly prescribed measure since its introduction as a low-dose option in April 2003.

The total number of mg of CEEs produced per year under the new guidelines is given by:

Total grams CEEs/year = 250,000 grams CEEs/yr x 1,000 mg/gram
  = 250,000,000 mg CEEs per year

Hence, the total number of single dosages available per year, assuming each dose is comprised of 0.45 mg can be determined as follows:

Total single dosages/year = 250,000,000 mg CEE per yr / 0.45 mg
  = 555,555,555 single doses /yr

Since a typical HRT regimen is a single dose/tablet (tab) per day, the total number of prescriptions that will be available assuming the total number of farms are reduced to this level and limited to a 10,000 g contract, can be calculated as follows:

Total # prescriptions/yr = 555,555,555 tabs per yr / 365 tabs per yr [i.e. 1 tab/day]
  = 1,522,070 prescriptions /yr

Interesting that only about 1.5 million prescriptions can be filled if this is the case!

Recent data from 2008 (Source: IMS Health) shows that upwards of 15 million prescriptions were filled by physicians that year, not including those available online without a doctor’s signature. Is it possible or plausible that the demand for the Premarin® family of drugs has fallen a whopping 90% in a mere 2 years?

5 thoughts on “The Rise and Fall of the PMU Industry”

  1. I just hope that the women who were suckered in by Wyeth don’t get sucked into their new scheme. They had doctors leading women into believing that they NEEDED the drug to maintain their lifestyles…when all along they were killing them and the foals and mares that produced the urine. I personally fought the whole mess even when I went through it (using ONLY plant based products) and came through with flying colors. I realize that menopause affects women on an individual basis but there is so much out there that the use of these horses is both dangerous and stupid. I just don’t understand it myself. Thanks for the update as I hadn’t heard much about it recently. P.S. I have a pmu mare myself and she is a real pleasure to have in my life however I often wonder about her mother and her father… whatever became of them.

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  2. Just horrific that they can get away with this. These products should be banned from shipment into the US. There are synthetic drugs that do the same thing without some of the Premarin side affects and illnesses it causes.

    Just another note: I found an huge 2 page Purple and white advertisement in of all places THE LATEST Smithsonian Magazine for Premarin (conjugated estrogens 0.625 mg/g Vaginal cream “HELP RELIEVE AND RESTORE WHAT’S YOURS” by Pfizer. I am going to write them a nasty gram and cancel my membership until they can be more eithical in thier advertisers. I have seen other prescription drugs advertised in Smithsonian, but this is just going to far. And you can pay no more than $15 for your first prescription by visiting premarinvaginalcream.com. Just unbelievable.

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  3. Great news if it does happen.
    However, a letter on page 11 of the May 20th, Western Producer reads as follows:
    “Wyeth has ramped up production of PMU facilities in China, Kazakistan and Poland, out of the scrutiny of North American values. The byproduct of meat foals has a lucrative market, while Wyeth can continue to make statements relating to supply and demand to justify price of HRT.”

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    1. Great catch, Jean, thank you for posting this information for all of us. With these N.A. PMU farm reductions, we saw that the numbers of horses “on line” did not add up with Wyeth’s sales projections, particularly for its new drug Aprela. Not surprising Wyeth want to take it out of ‘our backyard’. We had surmised it may be countries such as the ones mentioned, but now we have the ‘writing on the wall.’

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  4. For the crimes done by Wyeth Ayerst this despicable corporation should be sued out of existence and the monies collected be used to give a decent retirement to the mares and their foals.

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