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Systematic review of sex-specific reporting of data: cholinesterase inhibitor example

Mehta N, Rodrigues C, Lamba M, Wu W, Bronskill SE, Herrmann N, Gill SS, Chan AW, Mason R, Day S, Gurwitz JH, Rochon PA. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2017; 65(10):2213-9. Epub 2017 Aug 18.

Objectives — To improve the value of research for older adults, we examine sex-specific reporting of data from drug trials for the management of dementia. These data are important because they may influence considerations ranging from the health of populations to shared decision-making by individual patient and caregiver about the risk and benefit of a drug therapy.

Methods — Randomized controlled trials of cholinesterase inhibitors (i.e., donepezil, rivastigmine, or galantamine) with clinical outcomes were identified from searches of MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Library. Sex-specific data were extracted from nine sections (title, abstract, introduction, methods, outcomes, results, discussion, limitations, and conclusion). Among the donepezil trials only, more detailed harms data were obtained.

Findings — Thirty-three randomized controlled trials were identified evaluating 15,971 participants (9,103 (57%) female). Trials were highly cited (median citations 158, interquartile range 62-441) and published in high impact journals (median impact factor 7.4, interquartile range 3.4-8.2). Sex was not mentioned in the title, introduction, limitations, or conclusion section of any trial. Only three trials (9%) mentioned sex in the abstract (all as a demographic characteristic), and 8 (24%) in the methods. Almost all (32 (97%)) trials mentioned sex in the results as a demographic variable. One trial reported a sex difference for a secondary outcome. Among the 16 trials studying donepezil, adverse events were frequently reported and often dose-related. No trial provided sex-specific reporting of adverse events.

Conclusions — There is an almost complete lack of sex-specific reporting of data in clinical trials for dementia drug therapies, and no sex-specific reporting of adverse events. Sex-specific reporting of data should be required in drug trials to increase research value and ultimately inform more tailored prescribing for older adults.