Monday, November 23, 2020
Despite the knowledge we might gain about COVID-19 and other infectious diseases from research on women, most medical research focuses on men.
- A study of heart disease—the leading cause of death among women—was undertaken on 22,000 men and no women.
- A federal study on health and aging proceeded for twenty years with only male subjects.
- Absurdly, even though women account for 80 percent of autoimmune disorder patients, the main research subjects are—you guessed it—men.
- Even basic biological research is done mainly with male mice!
Male-Centered Research is Killing Us
The dangers from male-centered research are profound. Even though women consume 80 percent of medications in the U.S., drug research is still predominantly conducted on men and fails to consider how drugs act over the course of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Consequently, drugs can reach the market that are actually harmful to women. In fact, eight of the ten dangerous drugs removed from the market between 1997 and 2000 caused greater harm and fatalities for women.
A wide range of medications, including some antihistamines, gastrointestinal drugs, antibiotics and antipsychotics trigger potentially fatal heart arrhythmias more often in women than men.
In 1993, Congress adopted a law designed to ensure that women were allowed to participate in medical research.
When discrimination persisted, the National Institutes of Health in 2016 announced guidelines requiring federally-funded scientists to enroll women in studies, to disaggregate medical research data by sex, and to study female animals and female cells as well.
Then along came COVID-19, with its tsunami of scientific articles. By May 13, 2020, there were more than 23,000 papers published on COVID-19 with the number of articles doubling every twenty days.
When I analyzed the burgeoning medical research literature about COVID-19 along with my team at the Institute for Science, Law and Technology at Chicago-Kent College of Law, we found that the historical discrimination against women in medical research still exists.
Only a few scientific articles about COVID-19 analyze the difference in symptoms between men and women. Most not only fail to break down the symptoms by sex, but also erroneously assume that the death rate of men and women is the same—ignoring the numerous studies that already demonstrated that men with COVID-19 die at a higher rate than women.
The fact that, in 2020, researchers would blindly assume women’s bodies behave like men’s is troubling.