Why Should Seniors Volunteer for Medical Research?

senior medical researchSo why should adults over 50 volunteer for medical research studies? The short answer? Because older adults are woefully underrepresented in research, even for diseases and conditions that affect them the most! In the past, medical trials typically had a guideline of participants between the ages of 18 and 65. Children and older adults were underrepresented, so there may be less data on how these age groups may respond to the drug or treatment being studies.

Medications and treatments need to be tested within the age groups they are being designed to treat. Here are several reasons why: older people may react to drugs differently or may need different dosages than younger adults or children. How well and how fast medications are absorbed, metabolized, and eliminated can vary. Metabolism, body composition (weight, muscle mass), liver and kidney function, and digestive function vary as we age.

Older adults may also experience different side effects. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older adults are twice as likely to suffer an adverse drug event serious enough to require a trip to the emergency room, and seven times more likely than younger adults to be hospitalized as a result. Plus, many older people may have special health needs to be considered.

Treatments and medications for illnesses and conditions that occur only or primarily among older adults, such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, and osteoporosis, and diseases and conditions that occur across ages but that act differently—such as arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes—must be
researched and need to be studied for each age group in order to ensure the treatments and medications that are developed work as expected.

“There’s often an assumption that drugs only need to be tested in younger people and results can be extrapolated,” said Consuelo Wilkins, an associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “But we know that how older adults respond to medications and interventions and
their risk for adverse events is based on their physiology,” he continued, in the article “Clinical trials for cancer could use more older people, as published in The Washington Post. The article also shared these statistics:

• 19% of breast cancer patients are 75 or older, but only 4% of breast cancer clinical trial participants are of this age.
• 33% of colon cancer patients are in the 75-and-older group, but only 8% of patients studied were in that age group.
• 37% of lung cancer patients are 75 or older, but only 9% of people of that age are represented in lung cancer clinical trials.

Additionally, according to an article published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) at the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “older adults carry 60% of the national disease burden but represent only 32% of patients in phase II and III clinical trials. Clinical trial participation of older adults is also low in research on Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, epilepsy, incontinence, and cardiovascular disease,” all which affect the older population more heavily than younger adults.

Per the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “groundbreaking scientific advances in the present and the past were possible only because of participation of volunteers, both healthy and those with an illness, in clinical research…As research opens new doors to finding ways to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure disease and disability, clinical trial participation is essential to help us find the answers.” By volunteering, older adults can help improve the health and quality of life of others in their age group and beyond.

Meridien Research conducts a wide variety of clinical research studies at our six Central Florida clinics and needs you! For more information or to see if you or someone you know may qualify to participate, please contact us today at 1-888-777-8839 or visit NewStudyInfo.com.