The Drug-Dose Gender Gap – NYTimes.com
The Drug-Dose Gender Gap
By RONI CARYN RABIN
Most sleeping pills are designed to knock you out for eight hours. When the Food and Drug Administration was evaluating a new short-acting pill for people to take when they wake up in the middle of the night, agency scientists wanted to know how much of the drug would still be in users’ systems come morning.
Blood tests uncovered a gender gap: Men metabolized the drug, Intermezzo, faster than women. Ultimately the F.D.A. approved a 3.5 milligram pill for men, and a 1.75 milligram pill for women.
The active ingredient in Intermezzo, zolpidem, is used in many other sleeping aids, including Ambien. But it wasn’t until earlier this month that the F.D.A. reduced doses of Ambien for women by half.
Sleeping pills are hardly the only medications that may have unexpected, even dangerous, effects in women. Studies have shown that women respond differently than men to many drugs, from aspirin to anesthesia. Researchers are only beginning to understand the scope of the issue, but many believe that as a result, women experience a disproportionate share of adverse, often more severe, side effects.