Clinical trials tend to exclude older patients, study finds

Are older adults not properly represented in clinical trials? That’s the conclusion of a study published this week in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Led by researchers from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the team surveyed 109 clinical trials, finding that 20.2% of them excluded patients above a specified age, and 45.6% of the rest excluded people with conditions that could relate to the elderly (for example, a physical disability or other functional limitation).

This is an issue, the authors point out, because as the population ages, medical professionals will need guidance on what to prescribe and how to treat the elderly. But many of these studies seem in one way or another to be avoiding the issue altogether.

“Unfortunately, funding remains inadequate to sufficiently expand geriatrics research,” the authors wrote, pointing to a 2004 journal review that found only 5% of studies focused on older adults.


Perhaps age and age-related issues are seen as factors that would confound an experiment’s results. But, the study authors point out, those very factors are what need to be tested, because a young person’s reaction to a drug may be very different – even dangerously different – from an older person’s response.

Think more studies should include (or focus on) older individuals? Post your thoughts below.

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