Stop Use of Off-Label Drug in Preventing Intersex Disorder and Boyishness in Female Babies

Target: The American Medical Association

Goal: Launch an investigation into the use of an off-label synthetic steroid on pregnant women to engineer fetus development for sex normalization purposes

A recent report from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine shows that some doctors across the U.S. have been using an off-label drug called dexamethasone to prevent a condition called congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), which can result in female fetuses being born with partially male genitalia and/or brains that are more male-typical than normal. However, for the drug to be successful it is usually administered as early as the fifth week of the first trimester of pregnancy, long before doctors can know if the fetus is CAH-afflicted or even female. As a result, only about one in eight of the fetuses exposed to the drug are the target type of fetus. The result is that, rather than preventing CAH, the drug mostly targets sex-normalization, producing female babies that will grow up gender-typical.

Aside from the moral concerns raised by administration of a drug meant to ensure gender-conforming behavior, the study shows there are potential medical risks to the drug which should be addressed. The dose of dexamethasone that reaches the fetus is sixty to a hundred times what a body would normally experience, and about 90% of the fetuses that are exposed to it don’t benefit from it. It is also a synthetic steroid, the same type of drug as DES, a drug used on pregnant women in the 1970s which was shown to cause cancer and reproductive abnormalities in children and subsequently banned.

Alert the American Medical Association to your concern about the use of dexamethasone on pregnant women and ask them to launch an investigation into the use of this potentially problematic drug.

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Dear American Medical Association,

I am writing to express my concern regarding the facts revealed in a recent study from the Feinberg School of Medicine into the use of an off-label drug called dexamethasone to prevent the development of congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). For dexamethasone to be effective, it must be administered early in a woman’s pregnancy, earlier in fact than it is possible to test for whether a fetus is CAH-afflicted or even female and thus capable of developing CAH. As a result, only one in eight fetuses exposed to the drug actually stand a chance of benefiting from it, and about 90% of fetuses exposed to it experience no benefit regardless of whether they are female and CAH-afflicted. Dexamethasone is a synthetic steroid, similar to DES, a drug used by pregnant women in the 70s which was later shown to cause cancer and reproductive abnormalities. In the end, dexamethasone mostly targets sex-normalization, influencing female fetuses affected by it to be more gender-typical when they are actually born (not tomboyish, lesbian, etc.)

The moral and medical concerns raised by the use of dexamethasone to prevent CAH outweigh its potential benefits by far, especially considering how rarely the drug is actually effective. Please launch an immediate investigation into the use of dexamethasone on pregnant women, and also into those doctors who have prescribed it.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Flickr via Neal Gillis

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One Comment

  1. Gen Lovyet Agustsson says:

    intersex is not a disorder. intersex is an assigned sex.

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