Men, women react differently to medicine


Men and women have several biological differences, which means that their systems react differently to certain chemicals and stimuli. These differences are also the reason why some conditions are more common in women than in men, and vice-versa.

Despite knowing this for many years, it is only recently that medical science started paying attention to the different reactions men and women have to certain types of medication. Most of the research was performed on male subjects, leading to a misunderstanding of how women would react to certain types of medication.

In this article, we discuss the development of gender-based medicine, which works to provide appropriate medication for each gender. We will also list the 9 most common types of medications that have diverse effects on men and women.

medFor decades, medical research was performed almost exclusively on men. In some cases, the reason was to protect women who may be pregnant during the study, and in other cases it was women’s menstrual cycle that prevented them from participating because hormonal and chemical changes would prevent correct assessment of the results. This also led to a neglect in studying the effects of medicine on women during their menstrual cycle. Even nowadays, two thirds of the illnesses that affect both genders are still studied on male subjects, and most experimental drugs are tested on men.

The emergence of gender-based medicine occurred during the 1970’s, but only during the 90’s were these issues discussed in a wider forum. When it came to conditions that were considered “women only”, such as breast cancer and osteoporosis, men were not included as test subjects. The result was that it became much harder to diagnose these conditions in men, despite the fact that they do appear in them, as well as providing appropriate treatment for each gender.

Medical science is now aware of the different effects medication has on men and women. In a 2001 study, it was found that 11% per cent of cases where women were hospitalized resulted due to incorrect medication, while in another study it was found that women seem to suffer more from side effects compared to men by a ratio of 50-70 percent.

There are several reasons for why men and women have different reactions to certain types of medications:

  1. Physical size and anatomy

Even though women are often physically smaller than men, they receive the same dosage. This means that they have a higher concentration of the medicine in their body, which could explain the differences in how the body reacts to it. At the same time, anatomical differences between genders can lead to increased sensitivity to certain types of medication in women.

  1. Difference in how the body processes medication

Our kidneys play a vital role in clearing toxins and excess medication from the body. In older women, however, there is a decrease in kidney functions, which some studies suggest is considerably higher than in men. While this is a natural process, it also means that some women end up being exposed to higher concentrations of the active ingredients in medication, because they stay in their bodies for longer periods. Additionally, enzymes in the stomach lining and the liver, which are part of a system called “P450” that also helps remove excess medicine in the body, behave differently in men and women.

  1. Stomach acidity levels

The digestive system in men and women works differently, so medication taken orally can affect each gender differently. In women, stomach acidity is lower than in men, leading to a slower emptying process. This means that the active ingredients in the medicine absorb in the stomach for longer periods, which affects women more than men.


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