When women’s health becomes a business like any other

From the digital application for monitoring the menstrual cycle to the yoga of hormones, women’s health, long neglected, is a thriving ecosystem, against the backdrop of the rise of “femtechs”. But also an all-encompassing market, about to become a company like any other.

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A recent report from the consulting firm McKinsey confirms this: If women’s health has long been considered a “niche market” (although it affects half of humanity), things are starting to change. “new chances” for investors.

The start-ups specializing in this field, born with the emergence of new technologies, even have a name: “femtech”, a portmanteau of “female” and “technology”. This market would represent $50 billion by 2024according to Frost & Sullivan.

But at the confluence of health, a highly controlled sector, and well-being, with much more vague rules: special transitional clothes, fertility herbal teas, nutritional supplementsthe field of possibilities is immense and does not respond to identical rules.

Lack of validity

This is one of the issues posed by companies’ growing interest in women’s health: lack of scientific validation. A medical device must therefore meet strict standards.

Founder of the start-up Fizimed, which has developed a probe for perineal rehabilitation, Emeline Hahn has had her product validated through a clinical trial.

This does not apply to all her competitors, she laments: “Doing a clinical trial makes it possible to demonstrate the interest of the device and get out of the ‘gadget’ box. But these are big investments and that’s why not everyone does it. » “We often talk about the CE marking, which indicates that a certain product meets the applicable safety standards. But it’s not a clinical trial demonstrating its effectiveness. This can be misleading for consumers”says the entrepreneur.

Another point to note, specifically for online apps: the issue of confidentiality. Because if the European GDPR regulations do indeed protect the use of health data, there is: “a vagueness in which service providers are swallowed up” who sometimes prefers to talk about ‘well-being data’, emphasizes Lydia Morlet-Haïdara, director of the Law and Health Institute at the University of Paris, a digital specialist.

Moreover, “When you download an app, you accept the terms and conditions of use and give your consent: after that everything depends on what you authorize”, warns Mrs. Morlet-Haïdara. The importance of reading these famous “T&Cs” in detail.

Historic Female Underrepresentation in Clinical Trials

However, the development of these offerings comes as a more or less serious response to problems that have gone unsolved for too long. Because women are often considered to be: patients with more or less valid accusations by traditionally male physicians. Many studies have analyzed the issue, notably pointing to the historical underrepresentation of women in clinical trials.

For Dr Thomas Borel, Director of Scientific Affairs for the Federation 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 deficiency in the analysis by gender”.

A phenomenon that is not without consequences
: The McKinsey report notes that women “twice as likely as men to experience side effects after taking medication”. Excluding oncology, about 1% of health research and innovation spending is spent on diseases specific to women, McKinsey continues.

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