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Women Needed for Major Health Study

September 11, 1996|SHARI ROAN

Two years ago, the federal government launched the largest study ever of major issues pertaining to women's health. The Women's Health Initiative was designed to boost knowledge about women after a major government report revealed that many previous studies focused primarily on men.

But, with a deadline set for the year 2005, investigators are concerned that too few women will join the study, thus jeopardizing researchers' ability to obtain clear-cut answers to some important questions.

As of this summer, 74,230 women (ages 50 to 79) have enrolled in the WHI, less than half of what is needed. About 3,600 women are needed at each of the three Southern California sites, says UCLA's Dr. Howard Judd, one of the WHI investigators.

Each of the sites has fewer than half of the participants needed.

"A majority of the studies were related to men, so Congress set aside about $620 million to make up for the lack of studies that had been done in the past," he says.

The WHI study will examine--among many issues--the effects of diet on various diseases and the role of hormone replacement therapy in preventing osteoporosis and heart disease.

"One of the things we are doing is to try to determine if hormone replacement therapy would prevent heart disease," Judd says. "The only way we can answer this question is to do a randomized drug trial. That will require approximately 25,000 women. If this study is a failure, or if this study is unable to do that, then I think no one else will ever attempt this."

Investigators nationwide are urging women of all ethnicities, ages 50-79, to consider participating. There are three primary arms of the study: diet, hormone replacement therapy and an observational group.

"Our feeling right now is that we will be able to finish the study either in the time allotted or in a short, extended-recruitment period. That does not mean we shouldn't maintain our vigilance," Judd says.

For more information about the WHI study or to participate, call:

Women's Health Initiative: (800) 54-WOMEN.

UCLA: (800) 399-UCLA.

UC Irvine: (714) 456-7241.

Harbor-UCLA Medical Center: (310) 222-8171 or (310) 222-8159.

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