Should women get the same dosage of medicine as men?

"Female biology is markedly different from that of men."

Post by Jacqui Brandwynne, founder of Very Private

Our plane departed from LA airport to Europe at 5 pm. We enjoyed our dinner and then took our sleeping pills, hoping it would give us a full night’s rest. I woke up when my husband shook my arm and told me to get ready for landing.

Having slept right through breakfast on board, I was groggy and ready to go sleep again. On the ride to our hotel, I felt so drowsy that I spent the next 24 hours in the hotel room, sleeping.

Obviously, while my husband tolerated the sleeping pill well, I did not.

Many medications react differently in women and men such as heart, anti-depression, and sleeping medications. In fact, any medication can cause unexpected side effects, both minor or major, which is why it is extremely important to read the explanations and recommendations that come inside the packaged medicine.  

Additionally, doctors are often pressed for time with their patients. Discussing dosage can get short shrift even though lack of discussion can lead to unpleasant, even dangerous outcomes.

The fact is clear, female biology is markedly different from that of men. A woman’s size, weight, hormonal differences, and even body fat can affect women’s reactions to any given medication.

“Because women have a more ample storage of body fat than men, any medication that is 'fat soluble' will be distributed differently in a woman. This impacts several medications used in psychiatry,” says Philip Muskin, MD, professor of psychiatry at Columbia Medical Center in New York City. “Because of sex differences, women should take only half as much of certain sleep medications.” 

I wish I had known! The lesson I learned is always to discuss dosage with the doctor and read the pamphlets that come with the medicine.

The gender difference most women know about pertains to alcohol tolerance between the sexes. An important difference is weight, which is why the "drunk driving" legal limits are different for the sexes.

Less known is the fact that women have less of an enzyme responsible for the breakdown of alcohol in the body. As a consequence, women metabolize alcohol more slowly and get intoxicated more rapidly. We know and respect the differences when it comes to alcohol and driving; shouldn't we do the same when it comes to medications?

Dosage and gender difference should be considered in every class of drugs. If you have a bad experience after taking a certain medicine, you should immediately report the incident to your doctor and the manufacturer. Do not continue taking the medication.

The success or failure of a given treatment is not only based on the effectiveness of a certain medication your doctor prescribed, but it is equally important that you share results, good or bad, with your physician to enable a more accurate diagnosis.

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