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J R Soc Med. 2007 February; 100(2): 66.
PMCID: PMC1790980

Gender bias in research

Holdcroft1 writes about the very real shortage of clinical trials data from studies in women. While this is true in a number of disease areas; it is not true of studies in hormone replacement and related fields, for example.

The exclusion of women from clinical research studies was the direct result of the Thalidomide disaster, which led to the setting up of the Dunlop Committee, forerunner to the Medicine's Control Agency. It was for many years considered to be unethical to include women in clinical trials who were known to be, or who might possibly have been, pregnant. This effectively excluded females from between 12 and 55 years of age. There was no intent to deny women the benefits of medical advances and any suggestion that this situation accorded a lower status to women is misconceived.

It is true that the difference between the sexes has been neglected in research at all levels,2 something that requires much greater emphasis and more investigation in the future.


Competing interests None declared.


1. Holdcroft A. Gender bias in research: how does it affect evidence based medicine? J R Soc Med 2007;100: 2-3 [PMC free article] [PubMed]
2. Wizemann TM, Pardue ML (eds). Exploring the Biological Contributions to Human Health: Does Sex Matter? Washington DC: National Academy Press, I O M 2001

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