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Pharma company warns of the impacts of underinvesting in women’s health

Experts call for change, as data reveals ‘tremendous gaps’ in research and development



The US pharmaceutical company Organon has called for recognition of the impacts of underinvesting in women’s health, as only one per cent of research and innovation is dedicated to conditions unique to women.

Leading up to International Women’s Day, on March 8, Organon is challenging the healthcare ecosystem, including academia, investors, policymakers and researchers, to consider the consequences of continuing to treat women’s health as an afterthought.

Women account for more than half of the population and mothers make approximately 80 per cent of health care decisions.

Despite this, “tremendous gaps” exist in research and development efforts to advance treatment options for women, researchers have found.

According to a 2020 study, only one per cent of healthcare research and innovation is invested in conditions unique to women.

Across the Middle EastNorth Africa, and Turkey (MENAT) region, plenty of untapped opportunities and challenges remain.

According to a Q4 2021 analysis released by FemTech Analytics – a subsidiary of the UK-based Deep Knowledge Group – investment in healthtech in the MENA region grew by 280 per cent, but none directed at femtech.

Furthermore, MENA’s overall share of the total number of femtech companies barely reached six per cent.

Organon is providing its employees, including over 400 employees in the MENAT region, with paid time off to shine a light and speak out in service of women’s health.

“The launch of Organon in the MENAT region came with a promise to deliver a better and healthier world to women and their families,” said Ramy Koussa, associate vice president for the MENAT region at Organon.

“As a company that is focused on innovations that improve women’s health, it is pivotal for us to understand and address the needs of our over 400 employees in the region.”

He added: “The first step of advancing women’s health is listening to women to understand their needs.

“To achieve this goal, it is vital to engage all relevant stakeholders involved and committed to this cause, and we call on these stakeholders to join us in marking international women’s day with us.”

Organon says multiple research and studies across numerous areas of women’s health reveal crucial and dangerous gaps that impact nearly all stages of a woman’s lifer life.

One survey found that 83 per cent of women involved in the study felt menopause negatively affected their day-to-day life while another one estimated the prevalence of endometriosis to be 12.9 per cent in Middle Eastern women undergoing laparoscopy.

“For far too long, women’s health issues have been underfunded, under researched and underserved,” said Koussa.

“Our team have been engaged in multiple activities, panels, initiatives, and projects to support women’s health and we continue to work closely with key government stakeholders and various medical societies to educate and empower women.”


New survey to ‘amplify’ marginalised voices in healthcare decision-making

UK charities enter partnership to address gender gap and advocate for inclusive healthcare policies



The gynaecological health charity Cysters and Endometriosis UK have announced a partnership to amplify women’s voice in healthcare decision-making.

Despite progress in healthcare data collection, there remains a gap in representing the experiences of marginalised groups, particularly for those impacted by conditions and diseases like endometriosis.

Decision-makers in Parliament and the NHS often rely on data and statistics to inform policy and resource allocation. However, these datasets may not accurately reflect the experiences of marginalised communities.

A recent report from Endometriosis UK that gathered data on the experiences of being diagnosed with endometriosis in the UK found that whilst the ethnicity of respondents who identified as ‘white’ was proportionate to the data collected in the Census 2021, the remaining data was not illustrative of the ethnic diversity of the UK, with 15 per cent of respondents choosing not to respond to the ethnicity question.

To address this gap and advocate for inclusive healthcare policies, Cysters and Endometriosis UK are launching a new survey initiative aimed at amplifying the voices of marginalised groups in healthcare decision-making.

“We know that the current statistics are not inclusive of all communities, particularly marginalised groups,” said Neelam Heera-Shergill, founder of Cysters.

“By encouraging those from marginalised communities to share their experiences through this survey, they will be helping us to advocate for the changes that are needed, backed by evidence from their communities.

“In addition to delving into the diagnosis journey for people of colour and the unique barriers they encounter. We aim for this research and findings to pave the way for additional funded research on all menstrual-related conditions affecting people of colour.”

The survey seeks to gather insights into the experiences of marginalised communities, particularly concerning conditions and diseases like endometriosis.

Participants are encouraged to share their experiences openly and honestly, knowing that their responses will contribute to shaping more inclusive healthcare policies.

Sarah Harris, a researcher at Cysters, said: “We urge everyone to participate in this survey and share it far and wide. Together, we can ensure that all voices are considered in the conversation surrounding healthcare policy and resource allocation.”

The survey is anonymous and takes approximately 15 minutes to complete. To participate, visit Delayed Diagnosis of Endometriosis Among People of Colour in the UK Survey.

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Menstrual care start-up launches period equity initiative across college campuses

The initiative is hoped to facilitate access to period care and educate students on the use of more sustainable products



Cherie Hoeger, founder and CEO of Saalt

The US menstrual care start-up Saalt has launched a new initiative aimed at addressing period poverty and environmental sustainability.

The Period Equity Initiative aims to reduce 100 million tampons from the environment while combatting period poverty.

Institutions, including Harvard University, Vanderbilt University, Northwestern University, the University of Utah and the University of Nebraska, are already participating in the programme.

One in five female college students in the US have had to decide between buying period products and paying for other basic essentials like food and other bills according to a nationwide survey.

The initiative, a direct response to the demand for more units for student populations, underscores the issue of period poverty, which affects students across America, challenging the misconception that it is solely an “overseas problem”.

Saalt aims to make period care accessible and affordable through the subsidisation of reusable period products, such as cups, discs, and period underwear, to participating universities and their campus affiliates.

The project is hoped to not only facilitate access to period care, but also educate students on the use of more sustainable products, which are designed to be reused rather than discarded.

“Every day we hear from customers about how life-changing Saalt cups are for them,” said Cherie Hoeger, founder and CEO of Saalt.

“Creating period equity and managing the environmental impact created by disposables are pressing matters that demand urgent attention and innovative solutions.

“Through our Period Equity Initiative, we’re taking a proactive approach to tackle these challenges by leveraging our expertise and aligning with universities across America to make a big impact closer to home.”

The Period Equity Initiative, Hoeger added, furthers Saalt’s commitment to making period care more affordable, accessible and sustainable.

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Medical device start-up enters partnership with Bayer Switzerland

The collaboration is hoped to help “transform” gynaecological examinations



The medical device start-up Aspivix has announced a partnership with Bayer Switzerland in an effort to “modernise” gynaecological procedures.

Aspivix has developed an innovative, suction-based cervical device designed as an alternative to the tenaculum, a surgical instrument commonly used in gynaecology for over a century.

The device aims to reduce pain and bleeding during transcervical procedures, including IUD placement.

Through the partnership with Bayer, Aspivix is now officially introducing Carevix in an effort to “transform” gynaecological examinations.

The collaboration is hoped to help bring the tool to market and offer women a more comfortable gynaecological experience, reducing the cases of pain associated with IUD procedures.

“We are excited to enter this partnership with Bayer (Schweiz) AG that truly emphasise the goal of empowering women to select the best contraceptive solution without worrying about potential pain and bleeding,” said Mathieu Horras, co-founder and CEO of Aspivix.

“The thorough research and clinical data behind Carevix guarantee a notable decrease in pain and bleeding, enhancing the experience of IUD adoption and placement, as well as various other gynaecological procedures for millions of women.”

The device, Horras added, provides an appealing alternative to the currently available tenaculum, filling an “important” unmet need.

Marco Gierten, Bayer Switzerland women’s healthcare lead, said: “As a globally trusted brand, Bayer remains committed to advancing solutions that provide significant benefits to patients.”

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