Objective: No guidelines or randomized trials address best practices for hormone therapy (HT) discontinuation.
Methods: We conducted a survey study to explore HT discontinuation practices at Group Health and Harvard Vanguard, large integrated health systems in the Northwest and Northeast United States, focusing on differences between specialties and study site.
Results: The response rate to the written questionnaire (mailed between December 2005 and May 2006) was 78.5% (736/928); this article reports the results for 483 eligible physicians. To discontinue oral HT, most physicians (91%) advised tapering, not immediate cessation (8%), and most (60%) suggested decreasing both dose and days per week. Almost 60% of physicians reported no experience with tapering patches. Harvard Vanguard physicians were more likely than Group Health physicians to encourage discontinuing HT and less likely to recommend resuming HT when a woman's symptoms returned after discontinuing HT. Physicians were most strongly influenced by their own experience (48%), advice from colleagues (25%), and the woman's preference (19%) when choosing a discontinuation strategy; only 2% relied on research evidence. Physicians endorsed various approaches to manage symptoms after HT discontinuation, most often behavioral changes (44%) and increased exercise (37%), and these approaches were more often endorsed by Harvard Vanguard physicians and obstetrician/gynecologists than Group Health physicians or family practitioners or internists.
Conclusions: Two health plans in the Northwestern and Northeastern United States have no standard protocol for HT discontinuation. Physicians customized approaches, influenced by their location, colleagues, and specialty. Research is needed to guide approaches to HT discontinuation.