Sex-specific heart medication doses needed for women

Women have a 1.5 to 1.7 times greater incidence of adverse reactions to cardiovascular drugs than men.
By Amy Wallace  |  June 15, 2017 at 10:38 AM
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June 15 (UPI) -- A new study suggests sex-specific cardiovascular drug dosages are necessary to reduce adverse reactions in women, who are at a higher risk of heart disease.

"Cardiovascular diseases kill a greater proportion of women than men in Europe, and they kill twice as many women as all cancers combined," Dr. Juan Tamargo, director of the Cardiovascular Pharmacology Research Group at the Universidad Complutense in Spain, said in a press release.

"Cardiovascular drug recommendations are based on clinical trials in middle-aged men," Tamargo said. "Women have more adverse reactions from current dosages and may stop taking preventive medication, leaving them unprotected despite their higher risk."

Women are at greater risk for heart disease than men because women typically live longer, receive less preventive treatments and receive less aggressive health treatment than men.

Symptoms of a heart attack in women are also often less pronounced and more difficult to recognize than in men.

"Male physicians less often prescribe recommended medications for female patients," Tamargo said. "Some doctors think cardiovascular disease is not a real issue for women because they are protected by sex hormones, forgetting that this disappears with age and women live longer than men."

In the study, published in print in the July edition of the European Heart Journal Cardiovascular Pharmacotherapy, researchers found that women have a 1.5 to 1.7 times greater incidence of adverse reactions to cardiovascular drugs than men, and that these reactions are more severe in men and require hospitalization more often.

The study revealed sex-related differences in the pharmocokinetics -- how a drug is absorbed, distributed, biotransformed and excreted -- of cardiovascular drugs.

"Women have more adverse reactions because for many drugs the same dose is recommended for everyone irrespective of body weight," Tamargo said. "This can lead to higher plasma levels and overdoses in women. Sex-related recommendations for drug dosages are not included on labels, even for drugs with a greater than 40 percent difference in pharmacokinetics between men and women."

Researchers recommend the development and use of sex-specific guidelines and dosages for cardiovascular drugs.

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