Chances are, if you are a menopausal woman or have had a hysterectomy, you have probably heard of the drug called Premarin. Maybe you are currently taking it, or have taken it in the past. If not, it is likely you know a woman who has been on it (maybe your mother or grandmother) because reportedly, from 1975 to 1999, Premarin was the most prescribed drug in America.
Premarin (including Prempro, Premphase, Prempac, and Premelle) is a drug put out in many forms (pills, creams, injections, patches, vaginal rings) and is used to reduce the symptoms of menopause in women or women who have had a hysterectomy. Premarin was one of the first drugs available when hormonal therapy for menopause was introduced in 1946. It has also been prescribed to eliminate the risk of osteoporosis .
Premarin® stands for Pregnant Mares' Urine (PREgnant MARes' urINe).
Yes, Premarin is made up of conjugated estrogens obtained from the urine of pregnant mares.
To produce Premarin, PMU mares are impregnated and during the last 6 months of the pregnancy they are fitted with a UCD (urine collection device) strapped between their hind legs. For this 6 month collection period, they are forced to stand in a small stall, usually no bigger than 8 feet long, by 3 1/2 feet wide. Many PMU mares are large breeds like draft crosses because the larger breeds produce more urine. In this very confined space, they cannot walk more than a few steps in any direction. There is barely enough room for them to lie down. Their water intake is limited so the urine will be more concentrated.
Just before foaling, PMU mares are taken "off line" and allowed to foal in outside paddocks. Within six months of a successful breeding, they are returned to the PMU production line again. Mares that do not become pregnant within a very short time are usually sent to auction or straight to the slaughterhouse.
PMU mares are basically baby machines that are impregnated as often as possible, and for as long as possible, sometimes for more than 10 years straight. The foals of the mares are considered a by-product of the business and are taken from their mothers when they are 2-4 months old instead of the normal 6 months. Foals removed from the mare are sometimes fattened on feedlots and then sold for slaughter. The ones not sent to feedlots go straight to the meat auctions, or are sold to resale agents. A small number are sold by foal rescue operations to mostly U.S. rescue organizations.
Since research has proven that estrogen increases the chances of cancer in women, there has been a decline in the production of Premarin. By 2003, sales of Premarin plummeted 30% from their high in 1999 and have continued to do so as more and more studies linked the drug to life threatening ailments and women have been made more aware of these studies.
As promising as this sounds for ending the barbaric treatment of PMU mares and slaughter of their foals, my research for this post revealed other HRT (hormone replacement therapy) drugs are in development that would still use the urine of pregnant mares.
Nevertheless, many PMU ranches are being closed, leaving thousands of PMU mares from Canadian and North Dakota farms to find new homes or face an uncertain fate.
My daughter recently adopted a PMU mare who came from a North Dakota PMU farm.
Jolie is a 10 year old draft/paint cross. Look at that face! Isn’t she beautiful? She’s in need of a good grooming but that will have to come in time.
The rescue agency handling Jolie’s adoption assured my daughter Jolie was “halter broke,” meaning she was trained to lead and tie obediently. Unfortunately this does not appear to be the case at all. In essence, Jolie is basically wild. She will not yet allow anyone to get close enough to touch her so she would not voluntarily submit to allow a halter to be placed on her. On the positive side, she has started to eat a little grain from my daughter’s hand and she is beginning to let my daughter stand next to her.
To complicate matters, Jolie is “in foal” and should deliver sometime in the next 2 or 3 months. If she does not gain some trust in people before then, it is possible she might not allow anyone to handle her foal either.
Without a doubt, my daughter has her work cut out for her. Much patience and training will be needed to help Jolie overcome her PMU mare past.
Obviously, not everyone has the ability or desire to adopt a PMU mare or a PMU foal but you can still help their plight by educating yourself and others about the mistreatment of horses used for the manufacture of Premarin® or other HRT drugs using pregnant mares urine.
If you are using Premarin, why not talk to your doctor about trying one of the many synthetic and non PMU organic alternative estrogen-replacement drugs and spare the horses like Jolie?