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Women are dispensed more drugs than men during their reproductive years

A new study finds that women in their reproductive years are prescribed more medications than men, particularly for certain conditions. However, as they age, women don't always receive the same medications as men with similar conditions.

Researchers from the Arizona Center for Education and Research on Therapeutics (CERT), at the Critical Path Institute, and colleagues reviewed prescriptions for 200 of the most common medicines that were filled by nearly 69 million patients at a national drug store from 2002 to 2003. Children of both sexes received equal numbers of common prescriptions. However, once women reached their childbearing years, they received more prescriptions than men in 48 of 53 drug classes. As expected, females received drugs commonly used to treat urinary tract and vaginal infections. They also received more prescriptions to treat mental health, pain, and gastrointestinal ailments than men.

These prescription patterns may be in part because women are more likely than men to suffer with certain ailments and seek care, the authors suggest. For example, women are three times as likely as men to have migraines, and 73 percent of women with migraines see a doctor, while just 49 percent of men do.

Once women and men reached the 55 to 64 and 65 to 74 age groups, prescription patterns changed. Men received more drugs than women for angina, to prevent blood clots, to lower blood cholesterol, and to treat heart failure, even though women in these age categories often have the same conditions. Further, women were given certain pain relievers twice as often as men thus putting women at higher risk for adverse drug reactions.

The study was supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality by a grant (HS17001) to the Arizona CERT. For more information on the CERTs program, go to http://www.ahrq.govhttp://certs.hhs.gov/about/certsovr.htm.

See "Gender and age differences in medications dispensed from a national chain drugstore," by Marietta Anthony, Ph.D., Kwan Y. Lee, Ph.D., Carl T. Bertram, Pharm.D., and others in the June 2008 Journal of Women's Health 17(5), pp. 735-743.

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