Q. In the entire 246-year history of US clinical research, how many years were women included? A. 30
When you go in for an X-Ray, you’re trained to be careful of the radiation. When you pop an aspirin, you hope it’ll make your headache go away.
But do you ever ask yourself, was this designed with my body in mind?
Since 1747, clinical research has played an indispensable role in improving quality of life for all of us. If you thought dealing with mercury in retrograde was bad, without clinical research, we’d still be up against diseases like scurvy, smallpox, and the Bubonic plague. There’d be no X-Rays to see spot broken bones or stethoscopes to listen to the thump-thump of your heartbeat or the rush of air inflating your lungs.
There’s a lot to celebrate when it comes to clinical research— it functions as the essential step in making sure that any drug, device, tool, diagnostic test, technique and technology invented works effectively and safely on humans.
But what if we told you that for almost 90% of clinical research’s existence, 50% of the population has been absent?
Even worse, this absence came from an active exclusion of female bodies—because factors, like hormones, were considered confounding variables that would skew outcomes rather than inform them.
In the United States, women were not required to be included in clinical research until June 10th, 1993 when Congress passed the NIH Revitalization Act. This means that the majority of the pillars of modern medicine we praise and rely on were designed for mankind (literally), rather than humankind. It means that our gender health gap comes from negligence rather than complexity.
Most importantly, it means we have a lot of work ahead of us in ensuring that moving forward, clinical research takes into account all bodies (not just some).
This work starts with acknowledging where we’ve come from and deeply understanding the milestones in clinical research to this day.
Read More +
Show Less
A Brief History of US Clinical Research
253 years
 until women are required in research
Have we achieved equal research yet?
You’ve made it to 2023, the end of this timeline. Now that you have a sense of the magnitude of scientific and medical innovations accomplished without being tested on the female body, you may be wondering—are we there yet? Did we finally achieve gender parity in equal research?
While some strides have been made since 1993, many groups remain underrepresented in clinical research. Women from non-white racial and ethnic communities, older adults, pregnant and lactating people, people from the LGBTQIA+ community, and people with disabilities remain underrepresented and even excluded.
To this day, women are still diagnosed on average 4 years later than men across hundreds of diseases. We're more likely to die from heart attacks, react poorly to prescription drugs, and have our pain and symptoms dismissed by doctors.
So, what can you do to push equal research forward? Assuming you’re not a doctor or a scientist, the best thing you can do is advocate—for yourself and for others.
Advocacy starts with awareness. Tell someone you know today that women weren’t required in clinical research until 1993.
And remember, the next time you’re prescribed a medication, ask your provider: has this been tested on someone who looks like me?
Designed and Built by TWO-N