Speaker Urges Gender-specific Health Research

Dr. Lorece Edwards, Associate Professor, Department of Behavioral Health Sciences at Morgan

Dr. Lorece Edwards, Associate Professor, Department of Behavioral Health Sciences at Morgan

Lorece Edwards, a Morgan State University professor at the Department of Behavioral Health Sciences, spoke in March at the Earl S. Richardson Library about sex, gender, women’s health and the medical differences between men and women.

Medication purchased by women is rarely tested on them, Edwards told an audience of students and faculty. “Most of the medication that we were subscribers to was based on male subjects,” Edwards said.Women are purchasing medication where the effects on them are unknown. “Ambien is the only medication that is based on females.”

Collecting gender-specific data is needed in medical research, not only because women might need different drugs or dosages but also different treatment plans. There is proof that men and women are effected differently by numerous diseases. For example, more women are affected differently by alcoholism than men. “About 1.6 million alcoholics in this country are women,” Edwards said. “Women produce less of the stomach enzyme that breaks down ethanol.”

Women get drunk quicker than men and stay drunk longer than men. A woman can go out to a club and drink the same amount of alcohol as a man a still have a higher blood alcohol level, not just because they are of a lower weight but because of this enzyme. Another example is the effect HIV has on women. In order to receive a positive outcome, women should start HIV treatment a lot sooner than a man.

Addictions, autoimmune diseases, mental disorders and chronic diseases also affect women more. “Heart disease kills 500,000 American women a year, over 50,000 more women than men,” said Edwards.

Also, symptoms for chronic diseases are different for men and women. There have been times when doctors have misdiagnosed women because they were using a man as an example of what symptoms to look for. Using research collected from a man can, sometimes, help diagnose a woman, but it would be better to collect data directly from women.

A few years ago during the H1N1 breakout, doctors ran out of flu vaccinations because researchers later found out that they were giving women double doses. Women were not responding to the standard doses. If there were clinical trials done on women, they would have known the right dosage and, in turn, could have produced enough vaccinations for everyone.

“Gender makes a huge difference when it comes to illnesses,” Edwards said, explaining that 40,000 more women suffer from a stroke, each year. Also, women are two to three times more likely to suffer from depression. Even cigarette smoking is more harmful to women than men. Women have a harder time quitting and their nicotine withdrawal symptoms are more severe.

Women are newcomers to clinical trials and are still underrepresented. In 1977, women were banned from being subjects in clinical trials, but in 1990 the National Institutes of Health included women in the trials. They also started looking at gender data analysis. And women who participate in clinical trials are mostly Caucasian women today. “People of color don’t participate in clinical trials because of the Tuskegee experiment,” Edwards said, explaining African Americans don’t trust those in charge.

Women, in general, have to be involved in more clinical trials so that doctors can better diagnose and treat them, argued Edwards.

 

“We have to ask the right questions, we have to know how to ask the right questions,” Edwards said. “We have to know how to be involved.”

 

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