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November 8, 2016

Consideration of Sex Differences in Medicine to Improve Health Care and Patient Outcomes

Author Affiliations
  • 1Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York City, New York
  • 2Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts
  • 3Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 4Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA. 2016;316(18):1865-1866. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.13995

Even though the observation that men and women are different is arguably as old as human life, women have been included in clinical trials for only a few decades. Women have a unique physiology and their experience of illness, and responses to therapeutic interventions are often significantly different from those of men. Recent regulations from the National Institutes of Health requiring grant applicants to consider sex as a variable in biomedical research are a welcome development.1 However, despite increasing evidence that an individual’s sex is one the most important modulators of disease risk and response to treatment, consideration of the patient’s sex in clinical decision making (including the choice of diagnostic tests, medications, and other treatments) is often lacking. This is surprising given the increasing interest in precision medicine, which should begin with attention to sex differences in medicine.

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