Estrace and Medicare Advantage: What You Need to Know

In this article...
  • Learn more about the medication Estrace and why your doctor might prescribe it. Find out if your Medicare or Medicare Advantage plan covers the cost of it.

Estrace is a synthetic estrogen used in the treatment of menopausal symptoms. It is available in oral and topical forms. Estrace has several benefits over other treatments for menopausal symptoms, the most notable of these being a demonstrated reduction in breast cancer risk. Your doctor can review your symptoms and discuss whether this medication is right for you.

What Conditions Does Estrace Treat?

Estrace treats a variety of conditions associated with below-optimal levels of estrogen in the body. It can be used to treat hot flashes and vaginal dryness and to help rebuild the lining of the uterus after menopause.

Estrace may also be prescribed as a treatment for metastatic breast cancer or uterine cancer or even as an adjunct therapy to suppress the growth of prostate tumors in men. It can be effective at stopping the development of osteoporosis, a condition common in post-menopausal women due to lowered estrogen.

Is Estrace the Best Choice to Treat Menopausal Symptoms?

Doctors often prescribe Estrace first for menopausal symptoms, particularly when they're confident that the symptoms directly result from lowered estrogen in the body. They often prefer Estrace because of its relatively low side-effect profile and its beneficial effects on breast cancer risk.

That said, there are a number of alternatives to Estrace, both pharmaceutical and over-the-counter. Pharmaceutical alternatives include Premarin, Yuvafem and generic estrogen, in both tablet and topical form. Another option is an estrogen therapy that also includes progesterone or another progestin. This is known as combination therapy.

Over-the-counter alternatives to Estrace include black cohosh, red clover and soy isoflavones. They're not as powerful or effective as prescription estrogen, but they may have fewer side effects and can be an attractive option when symptoms are mild.

  • Red clover is typically considered the most effective alternative to Estrace. It has a beneficial effect on estrogen in the body and may provide a level of protection against certain cancers and heart disease.
  • Black cohosh may decrease hot flashes and night sweats.
  • Soy isoflavones are plant-based hormones called phytoestrogens that may mimic the effects of estrogen in the body.

Can I Take Estrace Topically?

Yes, Estrace can be taken topically. Doctors may prescribe it this way when the symptoms of low estrogen are concentrated in a local area, such as vaginal dryness. However, just because Estrace is taken topically doesn't mean it won't increase the level of estrogen in the body system-wide. Because vaginal skin is thin and highly vascularized, topical hormones applied there get absorbed into the bloodstream easily.

What Side Effects Should I Watch Out for When Taking Estrace?

As with any medication, there are potential side effects associated with taking Estrace. Some common side effects include headaches, nausea, bloating and breast tenderness. You might also see changes in your weight.

You should discuss any side effects you experience with your doctor to ensure they don't indicate a more serious problem. Your doctor might have you lower your dose or take Estrace less frequently if you experience adverse effects.

Also, be thorough with your doctor when listing other drugs you are taking. Exogenous hormones such as Estrace can interact with everything from Benadryl to SSRIs such as Lexapro.

Is It Necessary to Avoid Alcohol When Taking Estrace?

Some people worry that they need to avoid alcohol while taking Estrace. While you should always check with your doctor if you have any concerns, consuming moderate amounts of alcohol or less while taking Estrace is generally considered to be safe.

Once Prescribed Estrace, Will I Need to Stay on It Forever?

Only your doctor can determine the duration of your treatment. However, studies have shown that estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy regimens such as Estrace lower breast cancer risk over time, whereas combination regimens featuring estrogen and a progestin have the opposite effect, increasing the risk of breast cancer, particularly for women who've had it in the past.

Does Medicare Cover Estrace?

Many Medicare Part D prescription drug plans and Medicare Advantage plans with prescription drug coverage, known as MA-PD plans, cover Estrace. If you don't have Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D already, a licensed insurance agent can help you select an affordable plan that covers the drugs you take, including Estrace.

How Much Will I Pay for Estrace?

Estrace is inexpensive as long as you have a Medicare plan that covers it. Your monthly cost should not exceed $20, and in many cases, you'll pay nothing for the drug.

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