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A new study found that statins may not be as effective for women as they are in men—women who take statins to lower cholesterol levels do not receive the benefit of a decreased mortality rate from related events like stroke, but for those who have already had a heart attack, taking statins does decrease the risk of a second heart attack.

Of course, one criticism of the study is that there may not have been enough women participants for the results to be accurate. This is a problem with almost every health study, because women can get pregnant, and many, many drugs can have unexpectedly damaging results on a developing fetus. So, for ethical reasons, women are often excluded from studies to avoid the possibilities of birth defects or miscarriage.

Subsequently, we have limited data about how drugs, even common ones like statins, may affect women differently. Now that more women are choosing to wait longer to have children as well as using reliable birth control, more studies are making an effort to include women participants. It still leaves out pregnant women, meaning that anyone who gets sick during pregnancy may have to weigh potential risks from a developing illness against risks to a developing baby.

Statins, for both sexes, have been shown to be effective after a heart attack, but not so much as a preventative tool (except in specific genetic cases). One of the most commonly prescribed drugs, studies questioning their efficacy combined with new research questing the effects of cholesterol levels on heart health (likely more of a symptom than a cause) may mean that fewer doctors will prescribe them in the future.

How do you think women should be handled with regard to medical research?

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