Women-Specific Research Is Still Inadequate

Women underrepresented in research; many studies fail to report sex-specific outcomes

MONDAY, March 3, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Women are still underrepresented in medical science and research, and sex differences are often ignored, according to a report published March 3 by the Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Paula A. Johnson, M.D., M.P.H., from the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and colleagues examined the ongoing inequity in biomedical and health outcomes investigations.

The authors note that inequity is observed at the earliest stage of research, when women are excluded from studies or sex is not stated. Researchers frequently enroll inadequate numbers of women or fail to analyze or report outcomes by sex. Examples of gaps in research include cardiovascular clinical trials in which only one-third of participants are female; lung cancer trials, which are less likely to enroll women than men; and depression studies, which use female laboratory animals in fewer than 45 percent of animal studies. The authors recommend that research on sex and gender differences become the norm for achievement of health equity and for improving the health of all. Federal agencies should be held accountable; transparency and disclosure relating to sex- and gender-based evidence in research should be promoted; sex-based research requirements should be expanded; and sex- and gender-based research should be adopted.

"The recommitment to gender-based science is a national and global imperative that will save countless lives in the years to come," Elizabeth Nabel, M.D., president of the Brigham and Women's Hospital, said in a statement.

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