That's the word Tuesday from a panel of scientists convened by the Institute of Medicine to review medical research programs.
Their conclusion: "Sex matters."
"Sex ... is an important basic human variable that should be considered when designing and analyzing studies in all areas and at all levels of medical and health-related research," the committee wrote.
Historically, medical researchers have assumed that, other than their reproductive systems, men and women basically reacted the same way to drugs. That has drawn criticism from women's groups, who contend research has focused on men and too little attention has been paid to the differing reactions and needs of women.
In its report, "Exploring the Biological Contributions to Human Health: Does Sex Matter?" the panel noted that the sexual differences extend to the cellular level.
Men and women differ in their patterns of illness and life spans, the report observed, they are exposed to disease differently, have different methods for energy storage, have different metabolisms and respond differently to drugs.
In addition to urging more research into how the sexes respond to disease and drugs, the report calls on clinical researchers to design their programs to take these differences into consideration.
The panel said studies should be designed so their results can be analyzed by sex, the sex breakdown of the participants should be reported in scientific papers and studies involving women should note the status of their menstrual cycle.
The Institute of Medicine is a division of the National Academy of Sciences, an independent scientific organization chartered by Congress to provide scientific advice to the federal government.
National Academy of Sciences: www.nas.edu(c) 2001 Associated Press
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