Washington: Threats of popping a painkiller or antidepressant without a second thought depends on your sex.
This is because hormones and genes affect how the body metabolises drugs, reports the Daily Mail. A new paper reveals that women are prescribed drugs that may have never been specifically tested on females, as they are excluded from clinical trials under the assumption that ‘one size fits all.’
“Right now, when you go to the doctor and you are given a prescription, it might not ever have been specifically tested in females,” said researcher Deborah Clegg. Although, it is believed that a new painkiller or antidepressant will be equally effective in either sex, a growing number of scientists say hormones and genetic differences affect how medicines behave in the body – meaning drugs might affect women differently to men.
“Almost all basic research – regardless of whether it involves rodent models, dogs, or humans – is predominately done in males. The majority of research is done with the assumption that men and women are biologically the same,” Clegg said.
Experts, in the journal Cell Metabolism, said both men and women must be accounted for in trials to move medical advances forward. Clegg further said that one reason women are excluded from studies is levels of hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone fluctuate during the menstrual cycle.
This may impact the study, so researchers often use men instead. But the sex hormones are implicated in all biological processes, including sensitivity to fatty acids, or the ability to metabolise simple sugars.
Clegg stated that the differences have implications for all clinical trials, whether they are testing the effects of a drug or a body’s ability to tolerate an organ transplant. She claimed many researchers don’t know how to properly include sex as a variable in their experiments, adding that they include females in their study without addressing if they are pre- or post-menopause, whether they are on birth control pills, or if they are taking hormone blockers.
“Without addressing all of these variables in your analysis, you’re still not accurately reflecting the impact of hormones and chromosomes in your research. It would be great if there were drugs that were specifically tested and dosed based on sex” Clegg said.
“There are so many variables in medical research that can’t be solved by placing all women, regardless of age, into one category and certainly can’t be solved by excluding us completely. With the goal of personalised medicine, it is important to begin to address and focus on sex as a biological variable,” she added.