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National Institutes of Health Retracts Women's Heath Exclusion  Statement

Rockville, MD -- In a stunning reversal, the National Institutes of Health has issued three letters that repudiate earlier claims that women were neglected by medical research. In a February 21, 2001 letter to Men’s Health America, the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health agreed to retract a 1997 statement that “women were routinely excluded from medical research supported by NIH.”

  Earlier, the NIH National Institute of Mental Health had agreed to withdraw and revise a fact sheet that made the erroneous allegation, “Historically, research studies were conducted only with men.”

The third letter repudiated the widespread perception that women were shortchanged by medical research. “Women have been included in NIH-supported research for decades,” according to a January 10, 2001 letter from William Harlan, MD, NIH associate director for disease prevention. “Women have been included with overall equivalency in most observational epidemiological studies when the conditions commonly affect both genders.” Harlan also pointed out that in the areas of cancer, diabetes, and reproduction, women had received more research attention than men.

  The NIH retraction follows the publication of a report in the journal of Controlled Clinical Trials (October 2000) that analyzed 342 clinical trials published in 5 leading medical journals in 1985 and 1990. The trials enrolled 343,675 females, compared to 126,234 males. Johns Hopkins researcher Curtis Meinert, PhD also reported in the article that women had participated in 71% of all heart disease clinical trials from 1966-1985.

Columnist Cathy Young noted in a recent Boston Globe editorial, “The myth of women’s medical neglect has bred needless resentment in many women.”

Men’s Health America is a non-profit research and education organization based in Rockville, Maryland.

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