According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the fourth leading cause of death for women. While heart disease is often thought of as a “man’s disease” it affects approximately the same number of women and men each year. Despite the fact that heart disease affects men and women equally, women are significantly more likely to die waiting for a heart transplant than men.
Women only account for 20% of heart transplant patients despite being similarly afflicted by heart disease. This has led some doctors like cardiologist Dr. Mario Deng at UCLA Medical Center to believe gender bias is inhibiting women from getting the medical treatment they need. Dr. Deng is researching whether or not “doctors might be presenting information differently to men and women.”
Gender Bias In Healthcare
This isn’t the first time the equality in medical treatment has been questioned. Just last year a study from researchers at the Yale School of Public Health found that women were much more likely to receive a heart attack misdiagnosis than men.
And it’s not just medical conditions that are receiving less attention. A study published in early June from researchers at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine found that several high-risk obstetric and gynecological devices approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were significantly less studied than other medical devices.
The study looked at 18 devices approved between 2000 and 2015, which included permanent sterilization devices, pelvic meshes, and power morcellators, among others. Only 11 of the pivotal trials that led to device approval were randomized controlled trials. Additionally, only 14 of these female reproductive medical devices met their clinical efficacy endpoint, and only 12 required postmarket surveillance.
The obvious gender bias in medical treatment has proven to be devastating, and in some cases fatal, for many women and the problem seems to be much deeper than the study of medicine.
Earlier this month, the United State Women Summit took place at the White House and Johnson & Johnson’s CEO, Alex Gorsky, was asked to speak on the topic of entrepreneurship. Mr. Gorsky’s selection as a speaker was an unusual choice considering his company is facing thousands of lawsuits over its power morcellator device and lawsuits by the states of Washington and California over the illegal marketing of its pelvic mesh products.
Current legislation provides a small bit of hope for gender equality in medicine. Two Bills, Ariel Grace’s Law and the Medical Device Guardian Act, introduced to Congress could help hold device manufacturers responsible for defective devices. While it will be some time before either Bill is voted on, the Bills would lay a foundation for providing women with unbiased healthcare.