Are gender specific drugs the future of pain relief?

According to researchers at the University of Bath in England, women report more pain, experience it in more bodily areas, and have pain more often and for longer durations than men.

Jeffrey Mogil, Ph.D., director of the pain genetics laboratory at McGill University in Montreal, is convinced that pain response is mediated by different brain circuits in men and women. He found that some drugs that are effective for women have no effect on men. For instance, Jon Levine, MD, Ph.D., and Robert Gear, DDS, Ph.D., of the National Institutes of Health Pain Centre at the University of California, San Francisco, explored the effects of nalbuphine on post-operative pain in men and women who had wisdom teeth removed.

Low doses of nalbuphine had a temporary analgesic effects in women, but profoundly enhanced pain in men. When a low dose of naloxone was added to the nalbuphine, the sex difference disappeared and pain relief was significantly enhanced in everyone.

Men and women also use different coping strategies. Women focus on the emotional aspects, which may increase pain, while men zero in on the sensory aspects of pain, which increases tolerance. Researchers hope that studying the different responses of men and women to pain can help them predict and treat pain experience. Some pain scientists think it is only a matter of time before painkillers are formulated differently for men and women.