Philip A. Pizzo,David Spiegel, Michelle M. Mello
In December 2020, less than a year after severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 was identified as the cause of the coronavirus pandemic, an extraordinary collaboration between scientists, the pharmaceutical industry, and government led to 2 highly efficacious, safe vaccines being approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection.1,2 Had the US been in its expected role as a global leader in medicine and public health, this would have been a fitting capstone of US commitment to science and how that can change the course of morbidity and mortality related to a frightening new disease.
However, a less flattering story emerged about the inadequate US response to COVID-19. A number of leaders in federal, state, and local government, guided by political exigency and recommendations from a small number of physicians and scientists who ignored or dismissed science, refused to promote sensible, effective policies such as mask wearing and social distancing. This contributed to the US having more infections and deaths than other developed nations in proportion to population size . . .
Among the ways in which science-based public health evidence has been dismissed in the US is the replacement of highly experienced experts advising national leaders with persons who appear to have been chosen because of their willingness to support government officials’ desire to discount the significance of the pandemic. . .
. . . History is a potent reminder of tragic circumstances when physicians damaged the public health, from promoting eugenics to participating in the human experiments that took place in Tuskegee to asserting erroneously that vaccines cause autism. It can be difficult to hold physicians accountable, especially when they are acting in policy roles in which malpractice lawsuits will not succeed. Professional self-regulation serves as the primary vehicle for accountability and is critical if trust in science and medicine is to be maintained.
To that end, action from within the medical profession is an important but underused strategy. . .
Pizzo PA, Spiegel D, Mello MM. When Physicians Engage in Practices That Threaten the Nation’s Health. JAMA; 2021 Feb 04. Published online February 04, 2021. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.0122
Franck Mauvais-Jarvis, Noel Bairey Merz, Peter J Barnes, Roberta D Brinton, Juan-Jesus Carrero, Dawn L DeMeo, Geert J De Vries,C Neill Epperson, Ramaswamy Govindan, Sabra L Klein, Amedeo Lonardo, Pauline M Maki, Louise D McCullough, Vera Regitz-Zagrosek,Judith G Regensteiner, Joshua B Rubin, Kathryn Sandberg, Ayako Suzuki,
Clinicians can encounter sex and gender disparities in diagnostic and therapeutic responses. These disparities are noted in epidemiology, pathophysiology, clinical manifestations, disease progression, and response to treatment. This Review discusses the fundamental influences of sex and gender as modifiers of the major causes of death and morbidity. We articulate how the genetic, epigenetic, and hormonal influences of biological sex influence physiology and disease, and how the social constructs of gender affect the behaviour of the community, clinicians, and patients in the health-care system and interact with pathobiology. We aim to guide clinicians and researchers to consider sex and gender in their approach to diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases as a necessary and fundamental step towards precision medicine, which will benefit men’s and women’s health.
Mauvais-Jarvis F, Bairey Merz N, Barnes PJ, Brinton RD, Carrero J-J, DeMeo DL, De Vries GJ, Epperson CN, Govindan R, Klein SL, Lonardo A, Maki PM, McCullough LD, Regitz-Zagrosek V, Regensteiner JG, Rubin JB, Sandberg K, Suzuki A. Sex and gender: modifiers of health, disease, and medicine. The Lancet; 2020 Aug 22 396(10250): 565-582. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)31561-0
Institute of Medicine
One of the most compelling reasons for looking at what is known about the biology of sex differences is that there are striking differences in human disease that are not explained at this time.
Being male or female is an important basic human variable that affects health and illness throughout the life span. Differences in health and illness are influenced by individual genetic and physiological constitutions, as well as by an individual’s interaction with environmental and experiential factors. The incidence and severity of diseases vary between the sexes and may be related to differences in exposures, routes of entry and the processing of a foreign agent, and cellular responses. Although in many cases these sex differences can be traced to the direct or indirect effects of hormones associated with reproduction, differences cannot be solely attributed to hormones.
Therefore, sex should be considered when designing and analyzing studies in all areas and at all levels of biomedical and health-related research. The study of sex differences is evolving into a mature science. There is now sufficient knowledge of the biological basis of sex differences to validate the scientific study of sex differences and to allow the generation of hypotheses with regard to health. The next step is to move from the descriptive to the experimental phase and establish the conditions that must be in place to facilitate and encourage the scientific study of the mechanisms and origins of sex differences. Naturally occurring variations in sex differentiation can provide unique opportunities to obtain a better understanding of basic differences and similarities between and within the sexes.
Barriers to the advancement of knowledge about sex differences in health and illness exist and must be eliminated. Scientists conducting research on sex differences are confronted with an array of barriers to progress, including ethical, financial, sociological, and scientific factors.
The committee provides scientific evidence in support of the conclusions presented above and makes recommendations to advance the understanding of sex differences and their effects on health and illness.
Institute of Medicine 2001. Exploring the Biological Contributions to Human Health: Does Sex Matter?. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.