JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The ads are enticing. Real people, even local personalities, sharing their hormone replacement success stories.
"I feel like a whole new person." - Hormone Replacement Therapy Testimonial
"It's made such a difference in my life." - Jenn Jackson, Hormone Replacement Therapy Testimonial
"And now I feel better than ever. You don't have to suffer with hormone issues." - Toni Foxx-WQIK
"So I'm listening to the ads ... You're desperate at times. You know? You are desperate to feel better, to lose the weight. You're desperate and I guess that's where I was," said one patient who did not want to reveal her identity.
Tired and unhappy about her body post-menopause, this Jacksonville patient turned to HRC Medical in March of this year, but two treatments and hundreds of dollars later, she says the results were not as advertised.
"By the second injection I got depressed, hair growth," she explained. "he hair growth was just tremendous. I was going through puberty again."
This patient is not alone. According to the Better Business Bureau, consumers have filed dozens of complaints against HRC Medical.
Just last month, Tennessee's Attorney General filed a complaint against the company for "endangering the health of consumers" in the hopes of shutting it down.
But in Jacksonville, HRC Medical is already gone. Their office on San Jose Boulevard is now Hormone Health and Weight Loss. The clinic's parent company, HRC Medical of Alabama, said they are not affiliated with HRC Medical in Tennessee and they changed their name in July to reflect that.
Dr. Richard Brandon, the physician at Hormone Health and Weight Loss, uses bio-identical hormone therapy. Brandon said the hormones he prescribes to patients come from plants and contain the same molecules as those made in the human body, including testosterone, estrogen and progesterone.
"Very safe and very effective. More effective and safer than synthetic hormones," Brandon said.
These generic hormones are not approved by the Food and Drug Adminstration, but Dr. Brandon claims they contain the same hormones as products the FDA has approved.
Once Dr. Brandon prescribes a dosage for a patient, he inserts small, white pellets of the drugs into patients' fatty tissues which dissolve and are absorbed by the body over time.
Despite their growing popularity, the FDA says it does not medically recognize the term "bio-identical" and warns that compounding-or combining hormones can lead to inconsistent or dangerous results.
"Just be a little skeptical about any kind of grand claims about what you're gonna get," said Dr. Mary Ellen Wechter.
Wechter is a board-certified obstetrician gynecologist with fellowship training in laparoscopy and robotic surgery. Sheruns a Fibroid Care Clinic for North Florida OBGYN Division1 located at Baptist Medical Center Downtown.
Wechter said hormones are most effective in treating hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness, but she said there is not enough research about their effect on weight loss, mood or memory. Just because a product claims to be "natural" doesn't mean it is safe, she stressed.
"I can't come up with a great reason to go that direction except kind of the hope that we all have that there's a magic solution out there to our weight loss and being beautiful and gray hair and all those things. We're all a little hopeful that the next thing will be the best thing, but I wouldn't jump the gun ahead of information," Wechter said.
But Dr. Brandon said the next great thing is already here -- in his office at Hormone Health and Weight Loss. He admits that bio-identical hormones might not work for everyone and there are some side effects, but he thinks these hormones are safe and effective, despite the FDA's conclusions.
"Everybody on their board that makes decisions used to work for those pharmacies that make hormones -- the synthetic hormones -- or other drugs ... so they have to say what the drug companies want them to say," Brandon said.
But the patient First Coast News talked to disagrees. Months after stopping hormone replacement therapy, she still wishes she had never started.
"I felt I was lied to. Yes, it can work for people. Maybe it does. I don't know. But from my experience, it didn't work," she shared.
As enticing as the hormone replacement therapy ads may sound, she hopes people will listen to her story too.