University Researchers Find a Drug Dose Gender Gap That Is Harming Women

A new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Chicago finds that women are more likely than men to suffer adverse side effects of medications because drug dosages have historically been based on clinical trials conducted on men.

Researchers analyzed data from several thousand medical journal articles and found clear evidence of a drug dose gender gap for 86 different medications approved by the Federal Drug Administration, including antidepressants, cardiovascular and anti-seizure drugs, and analgesics, among others.

“When it comes to prescribing drugs, a one-size-fits-all approach, based on male-dominated clinical trials, is not working, and women are getting the short end of the stick,” said study lead author Irving Zucker, a professor emeritus of psychology and of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley.

Women in the studies analyzed by Zucker and University of Chicago psychologist Brian Prendergast were given the same drug dose as the men, yet had higher concentrations of the drug in their blood, and it took longer for the drug to be eliminated from their bodies. And, in more than 90 percent of cases, women experienced worse side effects, such as nausea, headache, depression, cognitive deficits, seizures, hallucinations, agitation, and cardiac anomalies. Overall, women were found to experience adverse drug reactions nearly twice as often as men.

The full study, “Sex Differences in Pharmacokinetics Predict Adverse Drug Reactions in Women,” was published on the website of the journal Biology of Sex Differences. It may be accessed here.

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