Gender differences in the effects of cardiovascular drugs

Eur Heart J Cardiovasc Pharmacother. 2017 Jul 1;3(3):163-182. doi: 10.1093/ehjcvp/pvw042.


Although sex-specific differences in cardiovascular medicine are well known, the exact influences of sex on the effect of cardiovascular drugs remain unclear. Women and men differ in body composition and physiology (hormonal influences during the menstrual cycle, menopause, and pregnancy) and they present differences in drug pharmacokinetics (absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion) and pharmacodynamics, so that is not rare that they may respond differently to cardiovascular drugs. Furthermore, women are also less often treated with evidence-based drugs thereby preventing optimization of therapeutics for women of all ages, experience more relevant adverse drug reactions than men, and remain underrepresented in most clinical trials. Thus, current guidelines for prevention, diagnosis, and medical treatment for cardiovascular diseases are based on trials conducted predominantly in middle-aged men. A better understanding of these sex-related differences is fundamental to improve the safety and efficacy of cardiovascular drugs and for developing proper individualized cardiovascular therapeutic strategies both in men and women. This review briefly summarizes gender differences in the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of cardiovascular drugs and provides recommendations to close the gaps in our understanding of sex-specific differences in drug efficacy and safety.

Keywords: Cardiovascular drugs; Gender; Pharmacodynamics; Pharmacokinetics; Sex.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Morbidity / trends
  • Sex Factors
  • Survival Rate / trends


  • Cardiovascular Agents