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Blog Pick Of The Month – August 2010

There were 28 blog posts covering PLoS ONE articles aggregated on in August. And there was a wealth of really good ones to choose from. Even when I narrowed it down to five, it was difficult – they are equally good. So I changed my mind several times over the past few days. But choose I must, so here it is.

The winner in August is Michelle of the C6-H12-O6 blog, for her post Pushing towards acknowledging sex differences in physiology and treatment efficacy describing the work in the PLoS ONE article Differences in Efficacy and Safety of Pharmaceutical Treatments between Men and Women: An Umbrella Review by Gerald Gartlehner, Andrea Chapman, Michaela Strobelberger and Kylie Thaler from the Department for Evidence-Based Medicine and Clinical Epidemiology, Danube University Krems, Krems, Austria.

From the Abstract of the paper:

Being male or female is an important determinant of risks for certain diseases, patterns of illness and life expectancy. Although differences in risks for and prognoses of several diseases have been well documented, sex-based differences in responses to pharmaceutical treatments and accompanying risks of adverse events are less clear. The objective of this umbrella review was to determine whether clinically relevant differences in efficacy and safety of commonly prescribed medications exist between men and women. We retrieved all available systematic reviews of the Oregon Drug Effectiveness Review Project published before January 2010. Two persons independently reviewed each report to identify relevant studies. We dually abstracted data from the original publications into standardized forms. We synthesized the available evidence for each drug class and rated its quality applying the GRADE (Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation) approach. Findings, based on 59 studies and data of more than 250,000 patients suggested that for the majority of drugs no substantial differences in efficacy and safety exist between men and women. Some clinically important exceptions, however, were apparent: women experienced substantially lower response rates with newer antiemetics than men (45% vs. 58%; relative risk 1.49, 95% confidence interval 1.351.64); men had higher rates of sexual dysfunction than women while on paroxetine for major depressive disorder; women discontinued lovastatin more frequently than men because of adverse events. Overall, for the majority of drugs sex does not appear to be a factor that has to be taken into consideration when choosing a drug treatment. The available body of evidence, however, was limited in quality and quantity, confining the range and certainty of our conclusions.

In her blog post, Michelle says:

It is no surprise to many people that men and women are sometimes more susceptible to certain diseases than the other. By virtue of having differing anatomy, physiology, and gender expectations, we are going to be prone to different types of diseases, injuries, syndromes, and whatever-you-call-its. That being said, the majority of pathologies affect both men and women relatively equally. Despite that fact, rarely do clinical trials explore the difference in response to treatments based on sex. In 2008, Phyllis Greenberger wrote a letter to Science, Flaunting the Feminine Side of Research Studies, lamenting the fact that more studies didn’t explore the effect of sex as a variable on treatment efficacy.

I am about to notify both Michelle and the authors of the article and send them the famous PLoS ONE t-shirts as prizes.

This month’s runners-up are: Dormivigilia, DeLene Beeland, Southern Fried Scientist and Brian Switek.

Previous winners:

March 2009: Ed Yong April 2009: Eric Michael Johnson May 2009: Christie Wilcox June 2009: Iddo Friedberg July 2009: Toaster Sunshine and Hermitage August 2009: Bjoern Brembs September 2009: Alun Salt October 2009: Andrew Farke November 2009: John Beetham December 2009: SciCurious January 2010: Anne-Marie Hodge February 2010: Princess Ojiaku March 2010: Grrrlscientist April 2010: Jason Goldman May 2010: Brian Switek June 2010: Greg Laden July 2010: Hannah Waters

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