Why Medicine Often Has Dangerous Side Effects for Women: A TED talk

Alyson McGregor gives a wonderful TED talk on why medicine often has dangerous side effects for women. Her talk centers around the fact that most medical research is done exclusively on men. Key points:

  • Doctors are not taught that there are important medical differences between men and women.
  • A government accountability study found that 80% of drugs that are withdrawn from the market are due to side effects that happen to women.
  • Ambien was tested exclusively on men and approved by the FDA 20 years ago. Hundreds of millions of prescriptions have been written, primarily to women since women suffer more sleep disorders than men. Just this year, the FDA recommended cutting the dose for women in half because they metabolize it more slowly than men. The higher dosage resulted in women having a much higher rate of serious side effects, and possibly led to deaths.
  • Until the 1980s, doctors believed women were the same as men in every way other than their reproductive system. Thus, women's health focused on "bikini medicine," that is, their breasts and their reproductive organs.
  • "Women are not just men with boobs and tubes. They have their own anatomy and physiology that deserves to be studied...."
  • "Heart disease is the number one killer for both men and women, but more women die within the first year of having a heart attack than men. Men will complain of crushing chest pain -- an elephant is sitting on their chest. And we call this typical. Women have chest pain too. But more women than men will complain of 'just not feeling right,' 'can't seem to get enough air in,' 'just so tired lately. And for some reason we call this atypical, even though, as I mentioned, women do make up half the population."
  • "We give aspirin to healthy men to help prevent them from having a heart attack, but do you know that if you give aspirin to a healthy woman, it's actually harmful?"
  • "From now on, I want you to ask your doctors whether the treatments you are receiving are specific to your sex and gender. They may not know the answer -- yet. But the conversation has begun, and together we can all learn."