“There are significant differences in the ways that men and women experience many diseases and drugs, and until this problem is solved, women will be forced to make do with therapies that may be of limited benefit,” says Heather Bowerman.
For example, hormones cause plaque to form differently in the arteries of men and women. Yet drugs to treat cardiovascular disease are tested disproportionately on men, and as one consequence, their death rates from that illness are declining faster than women’s. Detailed hormonal data could help doctors tailor drugs and treatment regimens so that they work better for women.
Bowerman is CEO of a startup, Dot Laboratories, that is developing a cheap and easy way to test female sex hormone levels and track them online. A patient spits into a tube at specific times and mails the tubes to Dot Laboratories. The company then delivers data on hormone levels in an app for the woman or her doctor to review. It’s still in a beta test; the company plans to publish data on the efficacy of its methods and release the diagnostic product in 2017.
Developing more drugs that take hormonal changes into account will take time. Even so, Anula Jayasuriya, a doctor who invests in life sciences companies, says such tests will help end the “sex bias in basic research and clinical medicine.”