Gender gaps discovered in prescription drug use

Women's health expert calls for further research on women from the "beginning of the drug discovery process.

April 7, 2012 01:01
1 minute read.
Gender differences

Gender differences 390. (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)


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Women use more prescription drugs than men; yet they are not prescribed proper amounts. In a new study presented at Women's Health 2012: The 20th Annual Congress by Medco Health Solutions, Inc. and the Society for Women's Health Research (SWHR) women are prescribed more drugs than men, have poorer adherence rates to using the drugs than men, and, perhaps most surprisingly, lag behind men in receiving the appropriate drugs for their documented diseases.

Historically, clinical trials have included predominantly men, but medications affect men and women differently. Because sex differences in prescription drug absorption, metabolism and dosage have not been properly researched, women may be left to suffer the consequences.

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“To adequately bridge the gender gap in medication management, we need to emphasize more research on women from the very beginning of the drug discovery process,” said Phyllis Greenberger, MSW, President and CEO of SWHR. "Research studies need to include women in all trials to determine why women’s adherence to and experience with medication trails behind men’s.”

According to the new study, which included almost 30 million Medco prescription and insurance claims records, gender differences were found in overall prescription drug use, adherence patterns and disease management. For cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes, women showed poorer outcomes than men in 25 out of 25 clinical measures. Usage patterns showed that 68 percent of women in the study took at least one medication over the one year study period compared to 59 percent of men. Women also took an average of five drugs, compared to less than four (3.7) drugs for men. Most importantly, only 59% of women with documented CVD were prescribed appropriate guidance-based treatment.

This landmark study shows that gender-specific dosing is desperately needed in modern medicine. SWHR has long advocated for sex-specific dosing research and guidance on all drugs to prevent harmful reactions in women and to improve their overall health.

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