NIH Move On Gender Disparities Hailed As Breakthrough

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A move by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to eliminate a gender bias in basic research will lead to improvements in medical care for both men and women, says the director of Women’s Health Research at Yale.

“The NIH plan to change the longstanding, inadequate representation of females in animal models and laboratory research with cell lines is essential to gaining an understanding of gender differences in human health and disease,” Carolyn M. Mazure, director of Yale’s center on women’s health, said in response to changes announced this week by the NIH.

“Gender differences affect risk, onset, prevalence and/or response to treatment in numerous important areas, including cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, substance abuse and a host of other health conditions,” she said.

Mazure was reacting to an NIH announcement this week that it is developing policies to require all medical researchers that it funds to use a balance of male and female cells and animals for all future preclinical research.

The NIH already has pushed researchers to include adequate numbers of women in clinical trials. Women still are often underrepresented in trials carried out by drug companies and medical device manufacturers. As a result, women often react differently to medications, sometimes with more severe side effects.

In April, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-New Haven, and other members of Congress sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting a study on the inclusion of women in NIH-sponsored clinical trials.

DeLauro, in response to the NIH announcement, said, “We know that every cell has a sex, and that diseases present themselves and evolve differently in women, and that women respond to treatments in different ways. We need to align our research efforts with that reality, in all phases of research, from setting priorities to transferring ideas to markets.’’

C-HIT examined the underrepresentation of women in medical device trials in this earlier story.






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