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Doctor Claims New Drug (Evista)
Poses Risk for Ovarian Cancer

by Nora Cody
Oakland, California

Nora CodyThis article is part of a series of commentaries by Nora Cody, First Do No Harm: A Consumer Health Advocate's Cautionary Tales, which examines issues in health and medical research, with a special focus on women's health topics.

Dr. Samuel S. Epstein, Professor of Environmental Medicine, University of Illinois School of Public Health and author of several books on cancer (see "The Breast Cancer Prevention Program") has called for the worldwide withdrawal of Evista, a prominent new post-menopausal drug. Evista, a product of Eli Lilly and Company (Eli Lilly responds), is the brand name for the drug Raloxifene, which has been shown to be effective in preventing osteoporosis and reducing LDL or "bad cholesterol" levels.

Unfortunately, this drug is not quite the wonder drug Lilly claims. In their own laboratory studies designed to prove the drug's safety, Evista was shown to induce ovarian cancer in both mice and rats at dosages below the therapeutic. In a January appearance on the Jim Lehrer Newshour, a Lilly spokesman claimed that the carcinogenic effects of Evista in the ovaries of rodents were irrelevant to such risks in postmenopausal women.

Epstein states: "Lilly's suppression of the evidence of ovarian cancer risks from Evista is as reckless as is FDA's marketing approval, conduct which merits congressional and legal scrutiny. This drug should be withdrawn from the world market immediately. As importantly, a 'Cancer Alert' should be sent to the over 12,000 women who have participated in U.S. and international clinical trials in the absence of informed consent. These women should also be offered lifelong biannual surveillance for the early detection of ovarian cancer at Eli Lilly's expense."

Lilly has undertaken a huge marketing campaign to persuade the growing market of postmenopausal women to take Evista. Ads have appeared in the widely distributed Parade magazine and many women's magazines. But Lilly does not have women's health in mind in their rush to corner the market. Apparently pharmaceutical companies are the last place women should turn for help safeguarding our health.

Note from the author: With so much conflicting information available, it can be difficult and frustrating to try and make the best decision about taking hormones. I am neither a health care practitioner nor an expert on hormone replacement therapy. For personal decisions about your own health care, I encourage you to speak with your health care provider. Please do not send inquiries. For thoughtful and reasoned discussion about hormones, menopause, and alternative approaches to menopausal symptoms, I also recommend the newsletter A Friend Indeed. To request more information about A Friend Indeed, you can contact its publisher at

For more information:

  • Contact the National Women’s Health Network at 202-347-1140

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Published in In Motion Magazine March 15, 1998.