Health Research Ignores Women, And That Needs To Change ASAP

When the Food and Drug Administration approved Addyi, a prescription drug for women with low libido, this summer, it did so with a major caveat: Absolutely no drinking while taking the drug, or risk serious side effects. There was only one problem with this recommendation: The researchers who analyzed Addyi’s drug-interaction side effects tested the drug, which was designed for women, on men.

The drug-interaction study comprised 23 men and two women, far too small of a female sample size to assess women’s risk of drinking while taking the drug. Since women are both more likely to have adverse drug reactions and to metabolize alcohol differently than men, the male results from the drug-interaction study were essentially worthless. So why didn’t researchers make an effort to recruit female study participants?

As it turns out, this summer’s fiasco is just the tip of the iceberg. Women have been excluded or underrepresented in medical and scientific research for as long as those fields have been studied.

One of the key ways women are left behind is by being excluded from or underrepresented in the clinical trials. Since clinical trial research advances our knowledge about everything from the efficacy of new drugs to which treatments work best for certain illnesses and certain groups of people, exclusion or underrepresentation in them means women are forced to accept second-class health care almost every time they receive health services.

Clinical trials have a gender problem

Women make up 51 percent of the United States’ population, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at the demographics of a typical clinical trial.

Forty-eight percent of cancer deaths are among women, but women only make up 40 percent of cancer treatment and prevention trials. And good luck getting appropriate representation in studies —> Read More