Donors: Support Research on Drug Dosages for Women

Here’s another way inequality has negatively impacted women’s health: incorrect drug dosages. Since most drug trials exclude women, based on false and outdated beliefs, drug dosages are set to work for men, not women. As a result, women take higher than needed doses of many medications, and suffer more adverse side effects.

Women metabolize medications differently from men, resulting in many women being overmedicated and suffering more adverse side effects. (Image Credit: Biology of Sex Differences)

Donors who are working at the intersection of gender equality and women’s health should take heed of new research published in Biology of Sex Differences that found that “The common practice of prescribing equal drug doses to women and men neglects sex differences in pharmacokinetics and dimorphisms in body weight, risks overmedication of women, and contributes to female-biased adverse drug reactions.” 

Because of Gender Bias, Women Are Being Overmedicated

The research helps explain why women experience adverse drug reactions at nearly twice the rate of men. The study sheds light on the fact that women often metabolize medications more fully and the medications stay in their system longer, resulting in more adverse drug reactions.

According to Brian Prendergast, University of Chicago psychology professor and co-author of the study, “These drugs are optimized from the beginning to work on male bodies. We need to immediately reevaluate the widespread practice of prescribing the same doses to men and women.” 

Women’s health philanthropy is an area of funding that appears to be growing, with big grant initiatives happening in Canada for women’s mental health, and foundations like Blue Shield of California, are articulating the need to support specific health needs of women. As we begin to understand the biological differences that present in women’s health issues, as well as the ways that we have neglected research on women’s health, there will be more opportunities for funders to support specific health initiatives for women.

It would be great to see gender equality donors address this overmedicating of women problem with research and public health messaging to make sure that women are taking the optimal doses for medication. It’s one way, as a donor, you could have an enormous impact on the lives of women across the world, not just today, but going forward.


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Author: Kiersten Marek

Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is the founder of Philanthropy Women. She practices clinical social work and writes about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.

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