First, up, I was really pleased to see that the 2001 small scale study which found that 80% of drugs that had been withdrawn for unacceptable side effects had worse effects in women (see IW
, p.215) has, only 19 years later, been updated with a larger scale study
. I guess like the viagra-vs-period-pain research (see IW
p.230-1) before it, well, it’s only women, so no rush, eh?
I was less pleased by the findings, of course: “striking” sex differences in blood concentration and drug elimination times (pharmacokinetics) were were found for 88% of the drugs evaluated, and these sex differences were strongly correlated with the rate of adverse drug reactions in women, including nausea, depression, bleeding, seizures, severe weight gain, cardiac abnormalities and, well, death. Body weight was not found to explain this sex difference.
“This,” explained the researchers, “likely contributes to the near doubling of adverse drug reactions in female patients, raising the possibility that women are routinely overmedicated.” The trouble is, there are “thousands of drugs for which sex-stratified [pharmacokinetic] data are not publicly available.” So, as usual, we possibly have a huge problem, it’s just that because we haven’t collected data on women we have no idea how big that problem is.
But still, the first step to fixing the male bias in medicine is better data, so this is a huge step forward.