Biomedical Sciences


Why the drugs don’t work for women and what to do about it

Whether you are male or female can make a significant difference to the safety and effectiveness of your medication. Dr Carole Torsney talks to The Times about male bias preclinical and clinical research and the impact for women. 

To observe that men and women are biologically different might sound like an exercise in stating the obvious. Yet for decades medicine has worked on the basis that we are fundamentally the same.

Remarkably, many of the drugs we commonly use have been trialled almost exclusively on males and the consequences of this have only started to become clear. 

The drug industry is beginning to face facts revealed by academic research. Recent guidance from the drug regulating authorities in the United States and Europe requires pharmaceutical companies to make sure that their trials reflect the gender prevalence of the condition studied.

According to the European Medicines Agency (EMA), women are no longer routinely excluded from drug trials, successive reviews suggesting that “women are adequately represented in pivotal trial populations".


The timing of pain signals delivered to the spinal cord differs between men and women. This may influence how pain information is integrated, processed and ultimately experienced by the brain. The way that pain signals are transmitted after injury also differ. There’s strong clinical and preclinical evidence that there are differences in pain sensitivity and possibly sensitivity to analgesic medications as well.

Dr Carole Torsney, Lecturer, Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences


Further information

Read Dr Torsneys article in The Times

Dr Carole Torsney's Profile  

Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences website