FAQ on bio-identical hormones

Q. What are bio-identical hormones?

A. Hormones are compounds derived from cholesterol which the body synthesizes and are generally secreted by endocrine glands (such as pancreas, ovaries, pituitary glands) or specialized cells of the body. Hormones are the chemical communicators for the body and have specific regulatory effects on activities of organs throughout the body. Bio-identical hormones are "human-identical", i.e., they fit into their designated receptor sites (like a key fitting into a lock) as specifically designed by nature. This is contrary to non-bio-identical hormones, which do not have an exact fit when bound to a receptor site, which accounts for their varying effects on different target organs and much more frequent side effects.

Q. Will bio-identical HRT work better for everyone?

A. Not necessarily, and a comprehensive answer really depends on the patient's situation. In general, bio-identical HRT are better tolerated, since they are human-identical, and therefore, will fit into a receptor site as nature intended, thereby minimizing side-effects. However, certain situations may require more potent pharmaceutical drugs for adequate control, such as suppression of ovulation for birth control if desired, and for painful menstrual cycles, such as in endometriosis.

Q. Will bio-identical hormones be covered by my insurance?

A. This depends on your specific type of insurance coverage. Most standard insurances will not cover non-FDA-approved medications. Compounded medications are generally not FDA-approved, although the active ingredient comes from pharmaceutical grade FDA-approved sources. Compounded medications are customized to the individual based on physician's specifications and are usually not made in huge enough quantities to require FDA approval. Although insurance coverage is less likely, it is not unusual for co-pays for name-brand medications to add up to or exceed the cost of compounded medications.