Women Are Overlooked in Modern Healthcare

Jul 22, 2021

Women have been overlooked, and some might say gaslighted, within modern healthcare. Whether that be their doctor saying “it’s in your head” or being excluded from clinical trials, women’s healthcare has been under-addressed or diminished within our modern health system.

When it comes to drug discovery and research, there’s a long tradition of ignoring gender when it comes to health research. There’s an enormous gender gap in drug development, and historically, women have been excluded from toxicology and biomedical research.

But, there are inadequate numbers of women within research and clinical trials, but the analysis of research results is also not being separated by gender, which matters.

We see this playing out in real life all the time. Women suffer disproportionately from chronic pain, depression, migraines, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, and more.

Yet, in many clinical trials for these conditions, the majority of the subjects are male, and research results aren’t separated by sex. As a result; many drugs do not take into account female biology or gender-differentiated responses.

Nine years ago, I founded HelloMD, the first Telehealth and educational platform within the cannabis space. Since that time, HelloMD has seen hundreds of thousands of patients. I’ve seen firsthand how women suffer disproportionately from men from a myriad of health challenges, and too often, there are few effective medical solutions.

Due to this, women may turn to complementary medicine, like cannabis and now psychedelics, as a last resort because traditional healthcare has failed them. Several years ago, I noticed that women were contacting me not just about cannabis but to ask about psychedelics.

People, and women, in particular, were asking me:

  • How can psychedelics help me with my health condition?
  • How do I gain access to psychedelics?
  • Will you help me find a solution?

Why Psychedelics and Women’s healthcare – why now? 

A view into women’s healthcare:

  • Women are underrepresented across target health indications
    • Many of these indications do not have adequate medical solutions for symptoms, such as menopause
  • One in four women in the United States is now taking some kind of psychiatric medication for depression, anxiety, or a variety of mood disorders
  • Psychedelics may be the biggest healthcare disruptor of our generation, and we’ve only hit the top of the iceberg
  • The science and research backs up psychedelics effectiveness for depression, addiction, and so on – we have yet to tap into other areas
  • Vast potential to transform western medicine through body, mind, and soul

When it comes to female-specific conditions, such as menopause, doctors often misdiagnose symptoms, and specific medical solutions are few and far between. Forty-seven million women start menopause every year globally, and there are roughly thirty-four different symptoms associated with the transition of perimenopause and menopause.

The range of time in which these symptoms occur can be months to years, and they include an increase in belly fat, brain fog, sleep issues, loss of libido, anxiety, weight gain, mood dysregulation, and more.

Dr. Stephanie S. Faubion, medical director for the North American Menopause Society, calls what’s happening to women “the menopause management vacuum.” According to Faubion, no one clinician within the healthcare space owns menopause, and as a result, there’s a gap in women’s healthcare during this time.

She says, “It used to fall squarely in the realm of a gynecologist, but now gynecology is subspecializing more into procedural-based areas like infertility or fibroid treatment because that’s how they can support themselves, and the procedures are needed. There’s just less emphasis on the woman who’s coming into the office to report vaginal dryness or hot flashes. I think it belongs in the realm of family medicine and internal medicine because it covers so many different areas of health. But those areas don’t own it either.” She concludes that until doctors “see menopause as a threat to health in general, they’re not going to take it seriously.”

Menopause, although a natural process and not eminently life-threatening, poses serious issues for women going through this transition in life. It can be physically uncomfortable, and hot flashes can also be linked to an increased risk of heart disease. For many women, there is an overall loss in productivity which may have economic impacts.

Women also often feel isolated and alone during perimenopause and menopause. During this time, a woman may disassociate from a sense of the former sense of self-which can be distressing. In addition, with neurohormones being affected by fluctuating estrogen levels, including testosterone, women can experience mood swings and a loss of libido.

Women see that their needs in support and solutions are not being met in modern healthcare. With a new emphasis in the media on the gender gap within medical research and drug discovery and the under-addressed health challenges women face, such as menopause, women are demanding new solutions. They expect, and rightfully so, that modern-day medicine level up.

Eastra Health is the world’s first female-focused biotech delivering psychedelic derived medicines addressing PMS, menopause, and sexual enhancement. At Eastra we take a patient-centric approach to drug development – we start from a deep understanding of a woman’s therapeutic indication before research helps us develops the appropriate psychedelic-derived medicine. We believe in the hope and promise psychedelics hold to deliver new and innovative solutions to health challenges women face.

Pamela Hadfield