Women Underrepresented in Clinical Trials

May 05, 2008 08:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Researchers long assumed that men and women respond similarly to treatments derived from clinical trials. Now they’re finding that’s not always the case.

30-Second Summary

Clinical trials help physicians find better ways to diagnose, treat and prevent disease. They also help compare the effectiveness of one medical treatment against another.

For years, these trials have been performed almost entirely on men. But scientific evidence is now showing that women can be different than men in drug reactions, disease susceptibility and symptoms.

“We talk a lot about personalized medicine, but before you get to true personalized medicine, you have to look at the sex of the person,” said Teresa Woodruff, director of the Institute for Women’s Health Research at Northwestern University.

Researchers are beginning to recognize a need for better representation in clinical trials on a multitude of levels.

In trials testing drug effectiveness, older populations, minorities, rural populations and disabled individuals have been “routinely excluded or under-represented” for years, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Omitting certain demographics can make it hard to know the true effectiveness of a drug. Individual factors like age, race and culture can make a difference in success rates.

Recognizing the need for a more diverse group of clinical trial patients is good, says analyst Armin D. Weinberg. Though the problem, he added, is that this recognition “has yet to have a real impact on studies themselves.”

Ultimately, says Woodruff, better representation must happen because it can save lives.

Headline Link: Gender differences in disease

Reactions: Addressing the problem of representation

Related: Reviewing the clinical trial process

Reference: Clinical Trials


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