Better representation of women in medical research

Federal Council decides on measures to improve healthcare for women


Women’s health needs differ from men’s, and research and treatment currently take too little account of this fact. At its meeting of 15 May 2024, the Federal Council approved a report in response to a postulate that sets out the need for action. It is mandating several federal agencies to implement measures in research, prevention and training.

Women and men are exposed to different health risks. They exhibit different health-related behaviour and are susceptible to different diseases. Moreover, they receive different treatment in the healthcare system. Although the Swiss healthcare system is of high quality, there are gender-specific inequalities and a tendency towards male perspectives in research and care delivery. This, in summary, is the conclusion of a study compiled as part of the response to the Fehlmann Rielle postulate (19.390). The report identifies a need for action by various federal agencies in research, education, employment conditions, prevention and healthcare delivery. It also includes measures that address Swissmedic.

Gender-sensitive research: Swissmedic's tasks

For a long time, women’s bodies were regarded as a smaller version of their male counterparts for research purposes. Even today, male cells, male animals and human males often predominate in both laboratory and clinical research. This has led to knowledge deficiencies and, as a result, to poorer-quality medical treatment for women.

While health research and treatment have both increased the attention they pay to gender considerations in recent years, there are still many gaps and therefore a need for action in research, as well as in medical and pharmacological practice. Against this backdrop, Swissmedic was assigned the following tasks:

1. Examine the need for gender-sensitive research:
Swissmedic will investigate whether there is a need to take greater account of gender-specific considerations in clinical trials. Swissmedic may submit a new topic proposal to the International Council for Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH) to set in motion work on an international standard.

2. Expand HMEC
Swissmedic is investigating whether a gender specialist should join its Human Medicines Expert Committee (HMEC) as an extraordinary member. The members of the HMEC advise Swissmedic on the scientific assessment of documentation submitted as part of authorisation applications. This could lead to a potential improvement in the way biological gender issues are considered in future HMEC recommendations and Swissmedic authorisation decisions.

3. Revision of internal guidelines
Swissmedic has been tasked with reviewing its internal guidelines to determine whether specific working instructions that take account of gender considerations could be added to the clinical assessment procedure for medicinal products.

The aim of these measures is to improve the health-related care that women receive and ensure more equitable treatment. Swissmedic is committed to ensuring that everyone in Switzerland enjoys the benefits of high-quality medical research and treatment, regardless of gender.

The federal agencies in question will implement their tasks by the end of 2029, then report back to the Federal Council.

A conference on gender medicine and public health will be taking place in Bern on 12 June 2024. It will provide a forum for specialists from various areas of public health delivery to discuss factors affecting the issue. A Swissmedic specialist will also be attending.

You can find more on the event (in German or French) at

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