A recent report by the consulting firm McKinsey confirms this: if women’s health has long been considered a “Niche market“- although it concerns half of humanity – things are beginning to change, with the key too,”new possibilities” for investors.
The start-ups that specialize in this area, born with the emergence of new technologies, even have a name: “fivetech“, contraction of”woman“and”technologyThis market would represent $50 billion by 2024, according to Frost & Sullivan.
But at the confluence of health, a highly monitored sector and well-being, with much more vague rules: especially menopause clothes, fertility herbal teas, nutritional supplements, the possibilities are enormous and do not respond to identical rules.
“Not everyone does a clinical trial »
However, this is one of the problems resulting from the increasing interest of companies in the topic of women’s health: the lack of scientific validation. A medical device must thus meet strict standards.
The founder of the young shot Fizimed, which has developed a perineal rehabilitation probe, Emeline Hahn had her product validated via a clinical trial.
This is not the case for all its competitors, she laments: “Doing a clinical trial makes it possible to prove the interest of the device and to get out of the “gadget” box. But it represents big investments, that’s also why not everyone does it“.
“We often talk about the CE marking, which indicates that a certain product corresponds to the applicable safety standards. But it is not a clinical trial that proves its effectiveness. This can be misleading to consumers“, says the entrepreneur.
Another point of attention, specific to online apps: the issue of privacy. Because if the European GDPR regulation actually protects the use of health data, there is “a blur where service providers are engulfed“who would sometimes prefer to talk about data from”welfare“, emphasizes Lydia Morlet-Haïdara, director of the Law and Health Institute at the University of Paris, a digital specialist.
Women are “twice as likely as men to experience side effects after taking medication”
However, the development of these offers comes as a more or less serious response to problems that have been left unsolved for too long. Because women have often been viewed as patients with more or less valid accusations by traditionally male doctors. Many studies have analyzed the problem and point in particular to the historical underrepresentation of women in clinical trials.
For Doctor Thomas Borel, director of scientific affairs for the association of pharmaceutical companies (Leem), if today there is no difference in the desire to include men and women in clinical trials, it exists “however, a certain deficit in the analysis by gender“.
A phenomenon that is not without consequences: the McKinsey report notes that women are “twice as likely as men to experience side effects after taking medication”. Excluding oncology, approximately 1% of health research and innovation spending is devoted to diseases specific to women, McKinsey continues.
An emblematic example of the neglect associated with women’s health, endometriosis is just beginning to become a recognized, properly diagnosed condition. It’s also one of those bedside pathologies that countless apps look for. But research remains in slow motion.
It is the tree that hides the forest, judge Claudine Junien, professor of genetics and member of the Academy of Medicine. “We say we care about women’s health because we’re talking about endometriosis, but what about other diseases, such as autoimmune diseases, where there are significant gender differences?“, she asks.
Thereby “women are nine times more likely to develop lupus erythematosus than men. All drug trials should include both male and female animals“, pleads the doctor.
There are also cardiovascular risks for women that are still poorly understood by the general public, laments Professor Claire Mounier-Vehier, a cardiologist who seeks to promote better diagnosis. “If we communicate with appropriate language, women will learn to recognize their symptoms“, she explains.
In this context, the new health services for women will “represent progress“, performs Emeline Hahn.”However, if there were to be a problem with certain products that are not clinically tested, it could damage the entire industry.“, she assesses.
As proof, the actress and wellness guru Gwyneth Paltrow made a mark a few years ago with “egg” for vagina from its Goop brand, presented for some time, without scientific validation, as a solution to regulate the menstrual cycle. Goop was convicted in 2018 of false advertising.