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Thursday, 4 October, 2001, 23:05 GMT 00:05 UK
PMS drugs 'ineffective'
PMS sufferer
PMS can cause serious psychological problems
The most commonly prescribed treatment for pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) is ineffective, research suggests.

The majority of the 1.5 million women who suffer from PMS in the UK are prescribed progesterone or its synthetic equivalent, progestogens.


If we are to dispense with what clinicians and women have found useful in the past then it has to be on the basis of much better research than this

Christopher Ryan
N.A.P.S
But a team of researchers from the University of Keele have found that taking progesterone no more effective than taking a placebo.

The report, published in the British Medical Journal, said previous beliefs that PMS was caused by a progesterone deficiency were "unsubstantiated".

'No convincing evidence'

The team examined 14 studies on the effectiveness of the treatment, which has been routinely prescribed by doctors since the 1960s.

They concluded that there was no "convincing evidence" to support the continued prescription of progesterone or progestogens to treat PMS.

Professor Shaughn O'Brien, head of Academic Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Keele who led the research, said the vast majority of women who suffer from the condition did not need to take drugs at all.

He said: "90% of women suffer from mild symptoms such as irritability.

"If symptoms are not that severe then women should think of a change in lifestyle and diet."

But Christopher Ryan, chief executive of the National Association for Pre-menstrual Syndrome (NAPS), said more research was needed before definite conclusions could be drawn.

'Complex symptoms

"PMS has very complex symptoms associated with it and is an issue that has long-term consequences for relationships and employment.

"If we are to dispense with what clinicians and women have found useful in the past then it has to be on the basis of much better research than this.

"On the basis of such a small piece of evidence I do not think it is very helpful at all."

NAPS estimates 800,000 women in the UK suffer from severe PMS.

The condition has been identified as a major problem in the workplace in a new TUC report into occupational health.

A book due to be published in two weeks identifies PMS as a major concern for female workers who get little or no support in dealing with its effects.

Unions are demanding urgent research into tackling the PMS to improve the lot of female workers.

Mr Ryan said PMS is thought of as a problem which only affects women but many of the callers to their helpline are men.

He said many men were left frustrated and helpless when their partners suffered from PMS and it was a common cause of relationship problems.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"The drugs might work for some women"
See also:

19 Jul 01 | Health
Nasal spray for PMS
05 Feb 01 | Health
PMS sufferers 'consider suicide'
08 Nov 00 | Health
'Two-thirds of women have PMS'
29 Sep 00 | Health
GPs seize on Prozac to treat PMS
21 May 99 | Medical notes
Pre-Menstrual Syndrome
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