Women’s Safe Medication Use Q & A
Q: How many women take a prescription medicine?
A: More than 70% of American women over age 45 say they take at least one prescription medicine. Women’s bodies are different from men’s. Women report having more side effects and women tend to have more drug interactions than men. Research has shown that differences between men and women, such as differences due to sex chromosomes or sex hormones, may be part of the reason medicines affect women differently. Women also have unique health issues. And some issues that affect both men and women can affect women differently. Women’s health refers to the branch of medicine that focuses on the treatment and diagnosis of diseases and conditions that affect a woman's physical and emotional well-being.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of Women’s Health (OWH) has resources to help women make healthy choices for themselves and their loved ones. Our website has free information in English and Spanish to download and print. You’ll also find OWH updates and can sign-up to get email updates. Check out the women's health resources and healthy living tips by clicking on the following link: www.fda.gov/womens
Q: What are some key medicine safety tips women should know?
A: Millions of people benefit from FDA-approved medicines. However, when medicines are not used correctly, they can cause serious health problems or even death. Many of these problems can be prevented. You can follow these four steps to avoid common medicine mistakes:
- Read the Label: Before any medicine is taken, read the label. The medicine label will tell you how to take it, how to store it, warnings, expiration date, and other important information.
- Avoid Problems: Some medicines can cause problems or side effects, such as sleepiness, stomach upset, or headaches. You should ask about the side effects of your medicines.
- Ask Questions: You can ask your healthcare provider for the facts about each medicine you take and any changes to the way you take your medicine. If you are pregnant or nursing, ask your healthcare provider before taking any medicine or supplement.
- Keep a Medicine List: Write down the name and important facts about each medicine, vitamin, and supplement you take. FDA’s My Medicines brochure can help you do this.
Q: Will taking a prescription medicine really help me live longer and better?
A: Your healthcare provider can help you decide if a medicine is the best choice for you. FDA does not tell healthcare providers how to treat their patients. FDA’s role is to ensure all treatment options (including medicines and devices) sold in the U.S. are effective and safe for the patients who will use them.
FDA looks carefully at every prescription medicine before approving it to be sold in the U.S. FDA makes recommendations based on three basic principles:
- evidence from the best available research,
- expertise (judgment and experience) from clinical experts who consider that each patient has unique health issues, risks, and benefits; and
- patient preferences and values.
Q: FDA’s Office of Women’s Health promotes women’s health through research and policy. What does this mean?
A: Women’s health is an FDA priority area. This means our research, education, and outreach focus on women’s health issues. We gather information from scientific research and from our stakeholders (healthcare providers and concerned consumers). We then use this information to help FDA put policies and guidelines in place to promote the health of women, such as requiring clinical trials to include women in their safety studies. This all leads to women getting safer medicines that work better.
One example is OWH’s research to better understand how certain drugs can cause drug-induced heart arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), which is more common in women than men. OWH funds research studies on this and other important women’s health issues. Learn more about research on heart disease in women.