Gender bias in clinical research, pharmaceutical marketing, and the prescription of drugs

Glob Health Action. 2014 Dec 9:7:25484. doi: 10.3402/gha.v7.25484. eCollection 2014.


This thesis is part of the studies of gender bias in health which together with the paradigm of evidence-based medicine shares the empirical assumption that there are inaccuracies in medical practice, in addition to a lack of rigour and transparency. It worked with the distinction between the concepts of sex and gender and between the concepts of sex-related differences and gender inequalities, in terms of applying a gender perspective in the study design and the subsequent analysis. This PhD review presents the research process conducted in Spain, which can provide an example for future research. Study I described a review of 58 clinical trials (CTs) of etoricoxib to assess its compliance with the Recommendations of Evaluation of Gender Differences in the Clinical Evaluation of Drugs. In Study II, key informants from professions related to different areas in drug development and pharmacovigilance held a working meeting to reach a consensus document on recommendations for the study and evaluation of gender differences in CTs in Spain. In Study III, the websites of the eight best-selling hormone replacement therapy drugs in Spain on Google first page of results were analysed. In Study IV, a logistic regression analysis was performed to compare analgesic prescription by sex in regions with a higher or lower Gender Development Index (GDI) than the Spanish average. Gender biases identified in this thesis limited the legitimacy of medicine, which is not based on the best possible evidence. The results also demonstrate the existence of inequalities between men and women that are not due merely to biological differences, but are gender inequalities stemming from the social differences that exist between both sexes.

Keywords: analgesia; clinical trials; gender bias; gender development; hormone replacement therapy; marketing; prescription.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic*
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Industry*
  • Etoricoxib
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marketing*
  • Pyridines / therapeutic use*
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexism*
  • Spain
  • Sulfones / therapeutic use*


  • Cyclooxygenase 2 Inhibitors
  • Pyridines
  • Sulfones
  • Etoricoxib