Thursday, July 28, 2011

Gender Bias in Pharmaceuticals

This post has nothing to do with forensics, but it does have to do with pharmaceuticals and thus toxicology so I deem it relevant. I'm sure I could find an overdose case and really tie it in, but the reality is this is my blog so...

It all started with a quick trip to my local Rite Aid where I went to the analgesic section of the store actually in search of Pamprin which they didn't have. That's ok. We shall change and adapt, it's alright.

So I saw Excedrin Menstrual which seemed like a good substitute, but as a chemist I never actually buy anything pharmaceutical related without looking at the ingredients so I picked up the box and took a look. When I did this I saw something unusual. You see I'm also a migraine sufferer and happen to have a bottle of Excedrin Migraine at home. The unusual thing was that this bottle of Excedrin Menstrual looked an awful lot like my Excedrin Migraine.

When I say an awful lot alike, I mean exactly the same. See below. Anyone see a difference? Bueller? Bueller?

Well... ok. So it's exactly the same medication. I can see that, they'd market it differently so people will understand that it can be used for different things. Alright. I'll buy that.

Now here's where I suddenly got angry. 

The Excedrin Migraine medication was priced at $5.49 for 24 geltabs whereas the Excedrin Menstrual was priced at $6.49 for 20 geltabs.  That's 22.8 cents per pill for the Migraine medication versus 32.4 cents per pill. Is the pink ink more expensive? Is that what I should believe here?

(BTW: looking at the inactive ingredients there are very slight differences with the Migraine meds having more inactive ingredients than the Menstrual.)

Looking online you can find the Excedrin Menstrual pill cheaper than what I saw at my local Rite Aid, but then again you can also find the Migraine version cheaper as well. The funny thing is when I went to the Excedrin website I saw advertisement for several promotions for money off, including one for the Migraine medication but none for the Menstrual product...

Now to be fair women are also more likely to get migraines than men so the larger purchasing community for the migraine meds will also be women. However, migraines are also found in men and are not just a "woman problem" making those meds slightly more universal.

We're all familiar with gender bias in pharmaceuticals. The focus on erectile dysfunction, the push back on the male birth control pill until ALL of the side effects are worked out even though women have been dealing with the side effects from theirs for decades.

So, what do you think? Is this another example of gender bias or am I reading too much into this?


  1. I think it can be justified if the migraine med sells more units, partly due to both men and women getting migraines and possibly more women getting migraines than menstrual discomfort. While the contents are essentially identical, the company likely has independent manufacturing equipment. Such equipment is costly and requires a minimal number of unit sales to recover. I don't know if that's enough to justify such a price difference. It would be interesting to see a comparison of sales figures for the 2 products.

  2. Interesting read!

    Because the Migraine meds have a slightly different non-medicinal make-up, I'd have to agree with Daryl in that the pills are probably manufactured separately and therefore may have different costs associated with them.

    But who knows. My health insurance plan covers Viagra but no other form of female birth control other than the pill. A friend of mine always jokes, "If men had periods, tampons would be free."

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