Spanish researchers say doctors are more inclined to prescribe pain-relieving medication to women as opposed to men. Pain, social class, or age seemed to play no role in the gender bias.

"In Spain, as well as in other countries, women suffer from pain more frequently than men, therefore it is logical that they are prescribed more analgesics," the study's lead author Elisa Chilet-Rossell explained to the Scientific Information And News Service.

"It also depends on whether the patient lives in an Autonomous Community with lower gender development, regardless of whether the patient is male or female," Chilet-Rossell noted.

Chilet-Rossell and her colleagues utilized the 2006 Spanish National Health Survey and the United Nations' Gender-related Development Index for the basis of their report.

Combining data from both directories, a statistical analysis was performed to compare analgesic prescriptions among social and economic inequalities between genders. Their findings isolated a gender gap of 29 percent.

"The gender bias found could be a way in which inequalities in treatment with analgesics negatively affects women's health," Chilet-Rossell added. "In this way, women receive treatment for symptomatic pain more frequently than men, treatment which can be unspecific and blind to the causes of the pain."

In November 2000, Dr. Linda Simoni-Wastilla published "The Use of Abusable Prescription Drugs: The Role of Gender" in the Journal of Women's Health & Gender-Based Medicine. In it, she determined that women were 48 percent more likely to use an abusable prescription drug compared to men.

Simoni-Wastilla offered marital status, proximity to a major city, employment status, and age as possible explanations for this gender difference.

"Research on the suitability of analgesics and the medicalization of women should take account of factors within this environment, as it entails a high cost in terms of women's health and increases pharmaceutical costs, an important consideration in the current climate of economic recession," Chilet-Rossell concluded.

The results of this study were published in the Spanish health scientific journal Gaceta Sanitaria.

Source: Chilet-Rosell E, Ruiz-Cantero MT, Sáez JF, Álvarez-Dardet C. Inequality in analgesic prescription in Spain. A gender development issue. Gac Sanit. 2013.