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Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2012 Dec;74(6):1045-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2125.2012.04310.x.

Sex differences in cardiovascular drug-induced adverse reactions causing hospital admissions.

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Department of Epidemiology, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam. The Netherlands.



Cardiovascular disease in women is often underestimated. The effects of cardiovascular drugs differ between the sexes because of pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic differences. Adverse drug reactions (ADRs) within these drug classes may have serious consequences, leading to hospital admission. We aimed to study differences between men and women in hospital admissions for ADRs due to cardiovascular drugs.


We conducted a nationwide study of all hospital admissions between 2000 and 2005 with data from the Dutch National Medical Register. Relative risks were calculated of hospital admissions due to ADRs to the different cardiovascular drug groups for women compared with men. By an ecological design, risks were adjusted for the total number of Dutch inhabitants and the total number of prescriptions.


In total, 14 207 of the hospital admissions (34% of all ADR-related admissions) were attributed to cardiovascular drugs [7690 in women (54%; 95% confidence interval 53-55%)]. 'Anticoagulants and salicylates' (n= 8988), 'high- and low-ceiling diuretics' (n= 2242) and 'cardiotonic glycosides' (n= 932) were responsible for the majority of the ADR-related hospital admissions. The most pronounced sex differences were seen in users of low-ceiling diuretics (relative risk 4.02; 95% confidence interval 3.12-5.19), cardiotonic glycosides (relative risk 2.38; 95% confidence interval 2.06-2.74), high-ceiling diuretics (relative risk 2.10; 95% confidence interval 1.91-2.32) and coronary vasodilators (relative risk 0.77; 95% confidence interval 0.65-0.91).


Clear sex differences exist in ADRs requiring hospital admission for different cardiovascular drug groups. Sex differences should be taken into account in the prescription and evaluation of drugs.

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