What is Premarin(e)?
Premarin® stands for Pregnant Mares’ Urine (PREgnant MARes’ urINe); PMU for short (we spell it both ways, with an “e”, PREgnant MARes’ urINE which is the older name used in Canada, and without — which is the more popular recent spelling, and the one that is a U.S. registered trademark).
It is the only human estrogen replacement drug that is derived from an animal (hormones beginning with the letter “e” are specific to equines, hormones beginning with the letter “h” are specific to humans).
The company that distributes and markets it world-wide, Ayerst Organics Ltd. (the world’s only producer of PMU) is a subsidiary of Wyeth Inc.
Premarin is produced at Ayerst Organics Ltd. in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada .
Urine extracted from the mares on the PMU farms (both in Canada and the United States) is shipped to the processing plant in Brandon.
Wyeth-Ayerst sets the PMU farm quotas, the price, and picks the producers. Their control of the entire Premarin industry is both complete and absolute.
What’s in it?
Premarin tablets contain:
• 17 alpha-dihydroequilin
Together with smaller amounts:
• 17 alpha-estradiol
• 17 alpha-dihydroequilenin as salts of their sulfate esters
Premarin tablets also contain the following inactive ingredients:
• calcium phosphate tribasic
• calcium sulfate anhydrous (white tablet only)
• calcium sulfate
• carnauba wax
• glyceryl monooleate
• magnesium stearate
• pharmaceutical glaze
• polyethylene glycol
• stearic acid
• titanium dioxide
How Long Has This Drug Been in Use?
Introduced in 1942, long before synthetic or non PMU organic alternatives existed. Premarin was one of the first drugs available when hormonal therapy for menopause was introduced.
In 1975, it became American Home Products (now Wyeth Inc.) biggest selling and most successful ever prescription drug.
The success of the Durg.
The continued production of Premarin based medications produces revenues of 1.2 billion dollars annually for Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, the only pharmaceutical company which manufactures this product (of Wyeth Inc.’s 2002 net sales of 12 billion dollars world-wide, sales of Wyeth’s Premarin branded drugs accounted for 13.35%).
Premarin, once the most prescribed drug in America (1975 to 1999), is now (2002) the fourth most prescribed drug in both the U.S. and Canada, holds 75% of the estrogen supplement market worldwide, and is Canada’s most lucrative pharmaceutical export to date.
It ranks at number ten in Medicaid subsidized prescription drugs (subsidized by U.S. taxpayer dollars).
What Are the Living Conditions of the Mares?
There are approximately 431 current Canadian and U.S. PMU farms but only 308 producing farms .
Pro-PMU people focus on the fact that the mares live out in 1,000+ acre pastures with their foals for up to six months of the year (on most PMU farms, mares are 175 – 185 days pregnant when the collection period begins.
Estrogen production starts to peak between day 200 – 275 of pregnancy, then decreases to parturition. Mares are collected for a period of 160 – 180 days with the collection period usually being from October to April).
Anti-PMU people focus on the fact that the pregnant mares are kept tied up indoors for at least six months out of the year.
As far as the use of catheters are concerned, PMU supporters say that they are no more (and in fact our research shows they were never used industry wide, if used at all) — now “urine collection devices” (UCD’s) are used.
The UCD’s are not very hygienic for the mares, since they allow the urine to soak the skin of the vulva, sometimes causing severe infections and painful lesions.
As for the actual living space they have, current PMU farm guidelines (strictly “voluntary” guidelines that have no consequences, and are not enforceable in any way) state that for horses weighing under 900 lbs. the width of the stalls should be no less than 3.5 feet in width; for horses over that weight, the width is increased to 5 feet.
These mares are tied up in front and strapped in behind. They absolutely cannot turn around or take more than two or three steps forward or backward.
As for feeding, the horses are more than adequately fed — most farms feed hay, grain and oats this is to keep them in profitable slaughter-weight for when they break down.
PMU farmers work to maintain a constant urine volume to meet both their quota requirements and the urine grade. Mares usually produce 90 – 100 gallons of urine throughout the collection season. On a daily basis, a pleasure horse type mare will produce about 0.5 – 0.6 gallon per day while a draft type mare will produce up to 0.75 gallon per day.
To produce Premarin, these mares are impregnated, fitted with a UCD and normally kept throughout their last six months of pregnancy in stalls just 8 feet long, by 3 1/2 feet wide, by 5 feet high.
Just before foaling they are taken “off line” and allowed to foal in outside paddocks (90% of the mares will carry a foal full term). In most cases they are impregnated by natural cover (artificial insemination has been tried in the past to “streamline” the operation, but was discarded as too expensive).
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, cannot be returned to the collection barns and will most likely be sent to auction or straight to the slaughterhouse).
Foals removed from the mare are sometimes fattened on feedlots and then sold for slaughter (“The Foals of August”). The ones not sent to feedlots go straight to the meat auctions, or are sold to resale agents.
Are the Foals Really Sent to Slaughter?
Some of the farms observed, do breed quality draft and Quarter horses (and obviously care about the welfare of the horses they breed), while others use combinations (Appaloosas, Belgians, “Generics”, Percherons, and Thoroughbreds) of both registered and unregistered horses purchased at local auction (the most common breed being the Quarter horse, which is coincidentally, the most desirable horse breed slaughtered for human consumption).
The offspring from the former are sometimes sold for show purposes and sometimes fillies are raised to go ‘on line’ as soon as they’re able to conceive (usually at the age of 20 – 24 months), but mostly they go to slaughter.
A filly foal has a less than one in 10 chance of not going to slaughter, a colt foal, less than one in 50.
Pro-PMU people argue that there is no slaughter market for foals that young. There is certainly no market for them as pleasure horses to be used in the private sector that young either — but meat is meat and is used in pet food products as well as shipped overseas to Europe and Japan.
Most of the PMU foals going to auction (the largest auctions are held in Virden and Winnipeg, Manitoba), will eventually go to slaughter (the Canadian killing plants are located in Lethbridge and Fort Macleod, Alberta; Laval, Massueville and Yamachiche, Quebec; and Owen Sound, Ontario.
The total number of mares, replacement mares, stallions, and PMU foals adversely impacted by PMU production is currently estimated by to be at over 75,000 per year.
Please note: I am not the original author of of this text but rather compiled it here to share because I think it is important.