You’re so old, researchers don’t even include you in clinical trials

Ouch! This is more than insulting, it’s downright dangerous.

Doctors are often in the dark about whether certain drugs, procedures and tests will benefit older adults, because these patients are routinely excluded from medical research. A systematic review in The Journal of the American Medical Association in 2007 looked at randomized controlled trials published in high-impact medical journals between 1994 and 2006, and found that close to 40 percent excluded individuals over the age of 65. Clinicians consequently have to extrapolate findings about diseases as diverse as cancer, heart attacks and mental illness from studies of younger and often healthier people, potentially putting their older patients at risk. […]

Older people aren’t the only ones who have been underrepresented in medical research. The National Institutes of Health started requiring studies to include women only in 1993. Last week, it called for researchers to start testing new drugs and treatments on more female lab animals. This is a welcome trend. Ending the exclusion of older patients should be the next step. (It would also have a major impact on female patients, because the majority of older adults are women.)

– Donna Zulman and Keith Humphreys, The New York Times

(Keith and I are currently working together on a Department of Veterans Affairs-funded project.)


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