Sunday, February 15, 2009

Natural Progesterone, Compounding Pharmacies

So my neurologist decided he didn't want to wait until I started a regular female cycle to get my hormones tested. I had the blood tests done last week (they took like 7 tubes of blood). My neuro also didn't want to wait to get the results before starting me on natural progesterone. He thinks my body has low levels of progesterone and that might be causing my headaches. Since you can only get progestin, the synthetic form of progesterone, at the regular pharmacy, I had to go to a compounding pharmacy where they mix the stuff for you.

I don't know if I'm sheltered or what, but I had never heard of a compounding pharmacy. So for those of you who haven't either, I picked up a brochure at the place and wanted to share some info with you. The compounding pharmacy has a nurse consultant on staff, according to the brochure. Not sure if the "pharmacists" are actual certified pharmacists or just studied chemistry or whatever in college.

Side note - according to Wikipedia, "Compounding pharmacy has been caught up in the recent controversy over hormone replacement therapy. Synthetic hormones, manufactured by large drug companies such as Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, were found to lead to increased rates of heart disease, breast cancer and stroke in the Women’s Health Initiative study, halted in 2002. As an alternative to synthetics, many physicians prescribe bioidentical hormones for patients suffering from menopausal symptoms. These hormones are mixed in a compounding pharmacy. There is no evidence that bioidentical hormones are safer than synthetic hormones for this purpose, and groups such as the North American Menopause Society have raised concerns about the marketing of these drugs."

The compounding pharmacy I went to looked really cool - seems like it'd be an awesome place to work. It was like a lab-type place with shelves like CVS would have, but instead of all drugs it had things like Sweet'N Low (certainly not healthy in my opinion) and a huge carton of EVOO (olive oil). It made me think of being a kid and mixing things for fun, like science fair or art projects. If my chemistry teacher in high school hadn't had a stroke and I was actually able to learn chemistry instead of getting an automatic A for playing spades the whole semester, I might have worked in a compounding pharmacy as a career!

Anyway, the brochure calls natural hormones "bioidentical hormones" because it refers to the structure of the hormone, not its source. You can read more about them in my book review post, a few posts down. The progesterone was $31, and supposedly if I fill out a claim form I'll get reimbursed by my medical insurance. I've taken it two nights, and so far, no side effects; but possible side effects I may have to look forward to are: breast tenderness (ok actually I do have that one), headache (this shows up on every list of side effects, doesn't it?), weight gain/loss, acne (already have this from the IUD, even though I'm now off it), loss of scalp hair, increased body/facial hair, drowsiness, dizziness, etc.

My hormone test results should come in this week, so I'll know if I need to keep taking progesterone or not.

At church this morning the preacher talked about how sometimes we make life more difficult than it should be, and we need to trust God. The sermon had an emphasis on healing and was pretty powerful for me. I'm trying to accept the fact that I don't need to "do" anything to be healed (and by "do" I mean "earn"); if it's in God's plan, fine; if not, I need to trust that he'll bring me through each and every headache.