NEW YORK, Feb. 10 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Taking a prescription drug or over-the-counter medication? Your gender could play a major role in its effectiveness and possible side effects. Consumer Reports Medical Guide ( http://www.consumerreportsmedicalguide.org/ ) provides free medical information about the different impact on women's health and men's health of common drugs such as statins, anti- depressants, anti-histamines, pain relievers and even surgical anesthesia http://www.consumerreports.org/mg/ free-highlights/ manage-your-health/ drugs(under)his(under)hers.htm .
Basic physiological differences including body weight, metabolism and sex hormones affect how quickly drugs dissolve and enter the blood stream. Other factors such as stomach acidity and gastric- emptying rate also play a role in determining response to and digestion of drugs.
Women are generally more sensitive to medications due to metabolic differences, and since most drugs on the market haven't been tested extensively in women, the recommended starting dosages are often too high. Consumer Reports Medical Guide advises women to ask their doctor about beginning with a new medication at a lower- than-usual dose. Pain medications are one exception, as research shows that women tend to have a lower tolerance to pain than men, and may also get less relief from drugs used to manage pain. Moreover, evidence suggests that women may require a larger amount of anesthesia when undergoing surgery, as they are more likely to report awareness, wake up sooner and experience significant pain.
Alternatively, men are likely to require higher than recommended starting doses of drugs. Studies suggest that depressed men may benefit less from new anti-depressant medications (Effexor, Paxil, Prozac), possibly due to increased levels of serotonin as compared with women suffering from depression. Consumer Reports Medical Guide recommends men consult with their doctor about increasing starting dosages or perhaps switching to older tricyclic anti-depressants (Aventyl, Elavil, Pamelor, Torfranil) if standard dosages aren't effective. In addition, due to decreased inflammatory responses to triggers such as infection, men may respond to lower dosages for treatment of inflammation-related pain.
"It is important for people to be aware that gender matters when it comes to medications," says Marvin M. Lipman, M.D., chief medical adviser, Consumers Union. He adds, "It's an issue worth discussing with your doctor."
The free medical information also contains his and hers medication tips and issues for consumers to raise with their doctor related to starting dosages, controlling pain and low-dose aspirin therapy. Subscribers to Consumer Reports Medical Guide can access detailed information about the safe use of drugs addressed in the report including fluoxetine (Prozac), nortriptyline (Aventyl, Pamelor) and ibuprofen (Advil, Mortin).
Consumer Reports Medical Guide, a subscription-based online service with rich, continuously updated content for non- subscribers as well, provides information on over 100 common and chronic health conditions, with sections explaining how each condition is diagnosed, what symptoms manifest, what to expect, what treatments are available, and specific questions to ask your doctor. Consumer Reports Medical Guide offers consumers independent, trustworthy, and thorough information on the best treatments and prescription drugs with no advertising influence. Consumers Union has a long history of providing independent information on a variety of health and medical issues through Consumer Reports magazine and the Consumer Reports On Health newsletter.
Marvin M. Lipman, M.D., chief medical adviser, Consumers Union is available for interviews.