Many of the medicines we take - common drugs like everyday pain killers - were hardly ever tested on women. The unknown side effects for women can be dangerous and even deadly.
Somehow women are expected and have gotten used to dealing with side effects. Be it pills for birth control, pills for their heavy menstruation, pills for endometriosis, or pills for cycle-induced headaches. Notice a pattern? Medical treatment for women is mostly oral - even though in most cases the uterus is the target organ for these female disorders. These treatments may prevent pregnancy, reduce bleeding, or help deal with the pain, but are associated with additional systemic side effects like headaches, weight gain, depression and blood clots that can be fatal. Women are somehow expected to carry the burden of side effects throughout their life stages, from their first menstruation to dealing with menopause and whatever comes after it.
There was a clinical trial conducted to bring a contraceptive pill for men to market, which demonstrated similar side effects to the female birth control pill, mainly heavy headaches, and libido loss. The trial was revoked, due to those side effects not being bearable for our male counterparts – yet women are dealing with them every day.
As if women aren’t suffering enough! Did you know that 1 in 4 women of reproductive age worldwide suffers from abnormal uterine bleeding / heavy menstrual bleeding? This can be caused by a variety of uterine disorders, ranging from uterine fibroids to endometrial abnormality and it can take up to 16 years to diagnose the exact cause of the uterine disorder. In the meantime, these girls and women bleed more than 7 days each month, with each bleeding session looking like a crime scene. They suffer from pelvic pain, anemia, fatigue, depression, and disrupted sex lives. They miss work and avoid social events–their lives completely revolve around their cycle because of the adverse side effects that come along with it. Today, living in the 21st century, these women have a health-related quality of life score below the 25th percentile compared with the general female population of the same age. At the end of the day, women suffering from Abnormal Uterine Bleeding receive therapies that lead to additional side effects. It’s a vicious circle. It seems as if women just need to accept a life of pain – due to a lack of alternatives.
Treatment options for women and their various pain points haven’t changed much in the last 60 years since they came to market. First choice recommendation: oral hormones served with an array of side effects, and over 20% of women discontinue their medication due to adverse health conditions. In some cases, hormonal oral therapy just doesn’t work. Some of these therapies are given for a limited time because long-term use is, again, associated with side effects, such as bone loss and blood clots. What are their options? Mostly surgical procedures.
About 300,000 women get hysterectomies (removal of the uterus) in the United States each year, making it the second most common surgery performed among women (after the cesarian section). Healthcare providers are often quick to recommend removing the uterus, which again, can lead to complications and you guessed right – more side effects! Even greater risk of dementia was associated with the removal of the female organ along with vaginal dryness, reduced interest in sex, menopausal symptoms, depression, and increased risk of other health problems.
Women, it is time to stop siding with side effects!
The uterus is the target organ for various uterine disorders, such as abnormal uterine bleeding, heavy menstrual bleeding, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids to name a few. Why not treat them directly at the source? Minimizing compliance issues of taking a pill every day and avoiding systemic side effects that can interfere with daily life and pose additional health risks. Imagine a world where we would be addressing a myriad of women’s health issues directly through the target organ: the uterus. Women would be able to avoid systemic side effects from taking oral formulations, with women-centric targeted therapies that are released inside the uterine cavity – not only for contraception. An array of women’s pain points could be tackled through the female power organ with lesser doses of drugs needed, which would minimize unnecessary drug reactions.
Women are seeking less-invasive, minimal dosage, better-tolerated solutions that can support them across different stages in their life journey. The organizations that holistically address these needs will differentiate themselves in the market– that is, by listening to women’s needs, those that don’t risk losing the opportunity to serve this key population that comprises 50% of the market will come out on top.
It is time to take women seriously and look at new approaches to women’s health– directly through the uterus. Releasing therapies in a uterus-friendly way to treat women’s conditions and pain points throughout their lives allows them to steer clear of oral treatments and adverse side effects that come with them. And while we are at it, why not integrate a diagnostics internal wearable that can monitor disease progression, vitamin levels, microbiomes, and general health? It is all possible– we can empower women and their health through their uterus.
The new generation of young women is voicing their expectation of moving away from harmful oral hormones and demanding better-fitted, modern therapies that offer them the quality of life far away from dealing with side effects! Let us hear them and serve them better options.
Written by Idit Eshker Oren, VP R&D at OCON Healthcare