Do women respond to medications differently to men? If so, in what ways and how frequently are these changes clinically meaningful? Review of the literature shows some examples of differences between the sexes in drug handling, particularly with certain classes of drugs. These will be dealt with later, but it is important to bear in mind that, despite some detectable differences, usually no therapeutically significant differences are seen
(Edwards, 1991). This is unlikely to be due to lack of compliance, as women are generally more reliable than men, although compliance does fall off to 67% over a few weeks for both genders (Cramer et al, 1990). This does not exclude self-adjustment of dose by female patients, a phenomenon seen in both sexes and probably much more common than reported.
It has also been claimed (because gender data are rarely mentioned in clinical studies, papers or reports) that gender differences are not sought. This presupposes that data are neither collected nor examined. In fact, the opposite is much more likely: 94% of surveyed pharmaceutical firms were found to collect gender data in their studies (Edwards, 1991). The reality is that findings of no differences are rarely reported, but sometimes this finding may just be a function of small sample size for each individual study or the small degree of difference to be found. It must also be recognized that many drugs were introduced into medicine prior to the current modern-day comprehensive testing programs. Nonetheless, after many years and millions of prescriptions, it is of reassurance that few have shown significant clinically important gender-related differences.
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