60 Minutes’ Sunday feature “Sex Matters: Drugs Can Affect Sexes Differently” put a huge splash in the medical drug industry! Consulting researchers from Northwestern University, the University California Irvine, and the Food and Drug Administration (among others), reporters at CBS News tracked the real story of gender inequity at the research level. Using the recall dosage of Ambien in women as a springboard to their discussion, the piece then launched into the need to not only examine sex as a research variable moving forward, but also to potentially re-examine previously approved drugs to test for potential harmful effects in women.
All researchers in the feature admitted that their attention to the research variances by gender was not initially intuitive to them as scientists. Despite the knowledge of sex differences in drug reaction being known for nearly 50 years, it was a commonly held belief that the primary differences between men and women were in regards to their reproductive organs and cells. Dr. Teresa Woodruff, of the Women’s Health Research Institute, however, has been advocating for the study of sex as a variable since her very first years in the field–continually arguing that every cell has a sex–from skin, to liver, to heart, to bones. It’s refreshing that increased publicity on this issue can finally propel this knowledge to the masses in a way that can no longer be swept aside.
This is truly a victory for the Women’s Health Research Institute and women’s health in general. The Institute’s collaboration with those at 60 Minutes has provided much needed exposure to this inequity in women’s health, and it’s exciting to be consulted as a leader in this field. Browse the 60 Minutes website to watch clips from Sunday’s show–including segment extras featuring Northwestern’s Dr. Teresa Woodruff and Dr. Melina Kibbe.