Women's Participation in Cardiovascular Clinical Trials From 2010 to 2017

Circulation. 2020 Feb 18;141(7):540-548. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.119.043594. Epub 2020 Feb 17.


Background: Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among women worldwide, yet, women have historically been underrepresented in cardiovascular trials.

Methods: We systematically assessed the participation of women in completed cardiovascular trials registered in ClinicalTrials.gov between 2010 and 2017, and extracted publicly available information including disease type, sponsor type, country, trial size, intervention type, and the demographic characteristics of trial participants. We calculated the female-to-male ratio for each trial and determined the prevalence-adjusted estimates for participation of women by dividing the percentage of women among trial participants by the percentage of women in the disease population (participation prevalence ratio; a ratio of 0.8 to 1.2 suggests comparable prevalence and good representation).

Results: We identified 740 completed cardiovascular trials including a total of 862 652 adults, of whom 38.2% were women. The median female-to-male ratio of each trial was 0.51 (25th quartile, 0.32; 75th quartile, 0.90) overall and varied by age group (1.02 in ≤55 year old group versus 0.40 in the 61- to 65-year-old group), type of intervention (0.44 for procedural trials versus 0.78 for lifestyle intervention trials), disease type (0.34 for acute coronary syndrome versus 3.20 for pulmonary hypertension), region (0.45 for Western Pacific versus 0.55 for the Americas), funding/sponsor type (0.14 for government-funded versus 0.73 for multiple sponsors), and trial size (0.56 for smaller [n≤47] versus 0.49 for larger [n≥399] trials). Relative to their prevalence in the disease population, participation prevalence ratio was higher than 0.8 for hypertension, pulmonary arterial hypertension and lower (participation prevalence ratio 0.48 to 0.78) for arrhythmia, coronary heart disease, acute coronary syndrome, and heart failure trials. The most recent time period (2013 to 2017) saw significant increases in participation prevalence ratios for stroke (P=0.007) and heart failure (P=0.01) trials compared with previous periods.

Conclusions: Among cardiovascular trials in the current decade, men still predominate overall, but the representation of women varies with disease and trial characteristics, and has improved in stroke and heart failure trials.

Keywords: cardiovascular disease; clinical trial; coronary disease; female.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / therapy*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Participation*
  • Patient Selection
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Characteristics*