Why More Elderly People Are Needed for Clinical Trials

Recent reports have highlighted an urgent need to get more elderly people to take part in clinical trials.

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As the world’s population grows, and life expectancy also increases, the proportion of older people becomes exponentially larger.

According to The Telegraph, the number of people aged 75 and over in the UK is expected to rise to 9.9 million by the year 2039, while the number of people aged 85 and over is projected to more than double.

The worry is that if older people are not included in current and future clinical trials, for whatever reason, the true effect of the drugs or treatments being tested may not be accurate for many thousands of people in the future.

What Is the Extent of the Problem?

A recent study into breast cancer trials in America found that only 17% of those taking part were aged 65 or over, with a pitiful 15% being aged 70 or over.

In contrast, in the ‘real world’ almost a half (47%) of all deaths from breast cancer in the US happen to women aged 70 or more.

There is a real danger that testing potential treatments for cancer and other illnesses on younger women may not give the same results as on older women.

Additional Health Conditions

In addition to this fairly obvious issue, there is another factor which is adding weight to the call for more elderly patients in trials.

For various reasons, older people are far more likely to have additional pre-existing health problems, which may have an effect on the efficacy or risks of any treatments they receive.

Worldwide, common health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, dementia and hypertension (high blood pressure), are far more likely to occur in people over 65.

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Having one or more of these conditions could seriously affect a patient’s reaction to treatments or drugs. So using more elderly people – and recognising which other conditions they have – could lead to more accurate and personalised treatments and care.

Certain drugs being tested in clinical trials need to be put through thorough QT studies, such as those provided at, in order to determine whether they affect the heart’s rhythm.

If the drugs pass the QT studies, they can then go on to the next stage of the clinical trial process.

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