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Does Sex Matter?

Does sex really matter?  It does in biomedical research.  Recently (April 2001) the Institute of Medicine--which advises Congress on medical and health policy--released a report ["Exploring the Biological Contributions to Human Health: Does Sex Matter?"]  which called on medical researchers to pay more attention to important sex differences when drugs and other medical treatments are both developed and used. 

The Institute documented that differences between the sexes begin in the fetus at the cellular level and continue to shape individual medical profiles throughout the life span.  These sex differences prevail from "womb to tomb," according to the report.  Therefore, the use of medications and medical treatments should take these differences into account.

Because of this report, drug manufacturers and the Food and Drug Administration must consider how to review clinical studies in men and women before they are placed on the market.  Why is this important?  Of the 10 prescription drugs withdrawn from the market since January 1997, eight drugs caused significantly more adverse events in women than men.

The Society for Women's Health Research, which played a key role in supporting the development of the report, strongly endorses the Institute of Medicine findings. For more information, click here.

Created: 8/17/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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