The New York Times has reported that older adults use a disproportionate share of medical services, yet one in five clinical trials examined in a study excluded patients because of their age, and almost half of the remaining trials used criteria likely to exclude older adults.
The study, in The Journal of General Internal Medicine, analyzed 109 studies whose results were published in 2007 in The Journal of the American Medical Association, The New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet, Circulation and BMJ, among others, according to the NYT reporter, Roni Caryn Rabin.
Rabin also reports that, “the average age of participants in the trials was 61. Many trials excluded participants who lived in nursing homes or had physical disabilities or existing medical conditions, all of which disproportionately affect older people.”
Rabin also states that, “fewer than 40 percent of the studies broke the results down by age subgroups, a type of analysis that suggests whether a treatment is as effective for older patients as for younger ones.”
She goes on to write that, “although including older patients with complicated conditions in clinical trials may make them more expensive and difficult to carry out, “the population in a clinical trial should reflect the population that will be treated in the real world,” said Dr. Donna M. Zulman, the paper’s lead author.”
Otherwise, she said, “we’re conducting large, expensive trials, and we can’t be certain whether the results apply to typical older patients, who are some of our most vulnerable and complicated patients.”