What's in Works for Women's Health?

What’s in Works for Women’s Health?

Women make up half of the world’s population, but there is a lack of scientific knowledge about women’s health in general. Why? Historically, most clinical research has been conducted in men. This means that there are real gaps in understanding women’s health needs and how women respond to treatments.

But we know that women are more likely than men to experiment this conditions:

  • Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus
  • Mental health conditions such as depression
  • Musculoskeletal disorders such as fibromyalgia and osteoporosis
  • Neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease

Overall, almost 4 out of 10 women have a chronic diseasecompared to 3 in 10 men. And more and more drugmakers are looking to develop treatments specifically for women to address a range of conditions.

According to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA)”Drugs in Development Report 2022,” 625 drugs — both in clinical trials and under FDA review — target diseases that disproportionately or exclusively affect women. (For comparison, 800 drugs are under development for chronic diseases in general.)

Not all drugs under development will be available to patients. Almost 12% of drugs goes all the way through the process. But the women’s health drug pipeline holds much promise, and millions of women could benefit from these advances.

Among the women’s health drugs under development are:

  • 200 drugs targeting cancers that primarily affect women, including breast, ovarian, uterine and cervical cancer
  • 133 drugs for neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, migraines and multiple sclerosis, all of which affect more women than men
  • 87 drugs for autoimmune conditions, including lupus, myasthenia gravis and scleroderma

Treatments for postpartum depression, endometriosis, rheumatoid arthritis and triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) are also in development.

Building on progress

Over the years, technological and medical advances have been instrumental in providing treatments and vaccines for women. For example:

  • Breast cancer deaths have decreased 42% between 1989 and 2019 thanks to better screening and treatment options.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations reduced the number of HPV infections in adolescent girls and young adult women 86% and 71%, respectively. HPV is the virus that can cause cervical cancer, so fewer HPV infections mean lower rates of cervical cancer.

More than 11% of American women have endometriosis, a painful condition that causes tissue to grow outside the uterus. The first oral medicine for endometriosis was approved in 2018


Medical advances can improve health equity

Not only has women’s health been less understood than men’s, but gender biases often lead to misdiagnoses and delays in treatment. Women’s health research and drug development can help raise awareness of women’s unique health needs and ultimately improve gender equality in health and medicine. Furthermore, new treatments could also improve health equity along racial and ethnic lines.

An example: Hispanic women they are 40% more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer and 20% more likely to die from it than other women. And research proves it Black women they are more than twice as likely to die from complications of pregnancy or childbirth than white women.

Including a more diverse range of women in clinical trials will help scientists learn more about how black women are affected by disease. This understanding will pave the way for better treatments, more specifically tailored to the health needs in different communities.

Developing new treatments has the potential to save more lives and make healthcare more equitable. Research into women’s health still has a long way to go, but every advance is a step towards better health care overall.

This resource was created with support from PhRMA.