when women’s health becomes a business

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    Long neglected, women’s health is now central to health applications. Their name, femtech. These applications are in full development, but are also the subject of discussion among experts.

    From digital menstrual cycle tracking apps to hormone yoga, women’s health is booming after years of neglect by “femtech”. However, it is also a market that is considered an all-encompassing market, to the point of becoming a business like any other.

    Women at the heart of health algorithms

    A recent report from the consulting firm McKinsey confirms that if women’s health has long been viewed as a “niche market” – even though it affects half of humanity – things are starting to change, with important “new opportunities” for investors as well.

    The start-ups specialized 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 2025, according to Frost & Sullivan.

    However, this highly controlled sector of health and wellness has much more vague rules: special transitional clothing, fertility herbal teas, nutritional supplements, the field of possibilities is immense and does not respond to identical rules.

    Lack of scientific validity of certain applications

    However, this is one of the problems of companies’ growing interest in women’s health: the lack of scientific validation. A medical device must therefore meet strict standards.

    Founder of the young shoot Fizimed, who has developed a probe for perineal rehabilitation, Emeline Hahn has 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 prove the interest of the device and get out of the ‘gadget’ box. But it represents big investment, 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 focus, specific to online apps: the issue of confidentiality. Even if the European GDPR regulation protects the use of health data, there are indeed: “a vagueness that swallows providers” who sometimes prefer to speak of “welfare” dataunderlines Lydia Morlet-Haïdara, director of the Law and Health Institute of the University of Paris, a digital specialist.

    When you download an app, you accept the terms of use and consent: after that, everything depends on what you authorize”, warns Ms. Morlet-Haïdara, that it is important to read this famous “CGU” in detail.

    Not all diseases are covered…

    However, the development of these offerings comes as a more or less serious response to problems that have gone unsolved for too long. Women are often seen by traditionally male doctors as patients with more or less justified complaints. 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 finds that women “twice as likely as men to experience side effects after taking medication”. Excluding oncology, about 1% of health care research and innovation spending is spent on 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 the bedside pathologies that countless apps are looking for. But the investigation remains in slow motion.

    It is the tree that hides the forest, judges 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.

    Women are nine times more likely to develop lupus erythematosus than men. All drug trials must include both male and female animals‘ the professor begs.

    There are also cardiovascular risks for women, which are still poorly understood by the general public, regrets Professor Claire Mounier-Vehier, cardiologist, who is striving for a better diagnosis. “If we communicate with a modified language, women learn to recognize their symptoms”she explains.

    In this context, the new health offerings for women represent “a step forward,” Emeline Hahn says. “But if there were a problem with certain products that have not been clinically tested, it could hurt the entire industry”she judges.

    As proof, actress and wellness guru Gwyneth Paltrow distinguished herself a few years ago with her brand Goop “eggs” for vagina, presented for a time, without scientific validation, as a solution to regulate the menstrual cycle. However, in 2018, the American star’s brand was convicted of false advertising.

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