June 2010

Osteoporosis Treatment for Postmenopausal Women

The following press release was issued by the FDA. While the seriousness and pain of bone fractures is significant, the side effect profiles of this drug sound pretty serious.   What is the risk/benefit ratio?   Is the trade-off worth it?  We would love to hear from women who are making these choices.

JUNE 1, 2010:   The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Prolia, an injectable treatment for postmenopausal women with osteoporosis who are at high risk for fractures.

Osteoporosis is a disease in which the bones become weak and are more likely to break. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, 80 percent of the people in the United States with osteoporosis are women. One out of every two women over age 50 will break a bone in their lifetime due to osteoporosis.

Female Viagra and the FDA

Ms. Magazine has a new blog post about the drug Flibanserin, which is touted as the female Viagra. The post brings up some interesting points about the psychosocial issues surrounding female sexuality and encourages the FDA to reject the drug. Rather than treat low female libido with pharmaceuticals, the article encourages the government to increase their commitment to sexual education.

Hot Flashes at Forty!

The article below was recently released by the National Institutes of Health.  It is important information but I post it with caution because it could make some people panic before the facts are in.    It is somewhat alarming if you do have symptoms of early menopause—-but it doesn’t always mean you have a serious health condition.     I went into menopause at age 41 when my children were teenagers and, and while it was concerning,  it was just early menopause.     Of course, any atypical health symptoms need to be  checked out, no matter how old you are!

Sick and Pregnant–now what?

An article was released in the June 10, 2010 edition of the well-respected journal, Nature, that raises the question of doing research studies on pregnant women.    Women  get colds, the flu, infections and other diseases during their pregnancies that have nothing to do with their mom-to-be status.   Many women simply “toughen it out” hoping their condition is just a virus that will run its course.   Other times, they rely on their obstetrician’s experience with other patients who may have been prescribed an antedote that the physician has used successfully in her/his practice, but has not actually been studied in well-designed research studies that included pregnant women.

Girls, Science, and Success

The New York Times has recently reignited a hypothesis made by Lawrence Summers, Director of the White House’s National Economic Council, about the ratio of males to females in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. Despite inroads, females make up a minority in these historically males-populated occupations. In the article “Daring to Discuss Women in Science” John Tierney addressed the gender gap in these fields. Like Summers, he suggested that males have higher mathematical abilities than females, at the extreme high end of the intelligence scale, resulting in an overrepresentation in STEM fields.

Sex Differences in Alcohol Metabolism

According to the World Health Organization, alcohol is one of the most significant risk factors for diseases including chronic conditions like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.  Compared with men, women become more cognitively impaired by alcohol and are more susceptible to alcohol-related organ damage.    Women develop damage with less intake and  over a shorter period of time than men.   When men and women of the same weight consume equal amounts of alcohol, women have higher blood alcohol concentrations.   This is due in part because women have proportionately more body fat and a lower volume of body water compared with men of similar weight. This leads to women having a higher concentration of alcohol because there is less volume of water to dilute the alcohol.

Sex Bias in Research Trials and Treatment Must End

Today, the scientific  journal, Nature, released a Commentary by Institute Director Teresa Woodruff and two of her post doctorate students that we hope will open up the dialogue about the current status of women’s health research.  For the reader’s convenience, the entire press release is listed below as well as a link to the article.  More examples of sex bias will be featured on this blog over the next two weeks, so we hope you will tag this site!

New Concerns about Bone Fracture Risk

A recent publication from the National Osteoporosis Foundation reported that many women with postmenopausal osteoporosis underestimate their risk for fractures.  This is particularly alarming when it is coupled with new information released from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that found potential increased risk of fracture of the hip, wrist and spine if you take certain drugs for heartburn, acid reflux, or ulcers.

Sex Differences and Vaccine Response

Biological differences between the sexes could be a significant predictor of responses to vaccines, according to researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. They examined published data from numerous adult and child vaccine trials and found that sex is a fundamental, but often overlooked predictor of vaccine response that could help predict the efficacy of combating infectious disease. The review is featured in the May 2010 issue of The Lancet Infectious Diseases.