Elderly care

Margaret McCartney

Old age is often beset by a variety of illnesses and health risks, and we end up taking a large number of pills as a result. But even though the elderly are more likely to need multiple medications, we still do not know enough about the effect these medicines have, since older people are rarely included in trials. As Professor Peter Crome, former president of the British Geriatrics Society, says: “They [the elderly] are less likely than younger people to have clinical trial evidence on which to make decisions about the risk and benefits of drugs and other treatments.” This, he believes, is a form of age discrimination.

One study showed that even though almost 40 per cent of heart attack patients are over 75, only 9 per cent of people taking part in treatment trials for heart attack were in this age group. A new project is trying to correct this distortion. The scheme, PredictEU, is examining the reasons why older people are under-represented in trials across Europe. Using this information, it’s organisers have drawn up a charter for the rights of old people in clinical trials.

Continue reading “The trials of age”

Margaret McCartney

Well-meaning medicines can have devastating effects. Antipsychotic drugs, administered in nursing and care homes to dementia sufferers, are making headlines because of the fatal harm they supposedly cause.

This is not news: knowledge of the drugs’ adverse side effects has been festering for several years. What is new is the official attention now being paid to the problem.

Continue reading “Drugged and confused”

By Jonathan Soble in Tokyo

In rapidly aging Japan, a bit of black humour has it that the only profitable businesses will soon be mortuaries and nursing homes. Dark as it sounds, that formulation may be too sunny in one respect: the latter of those businesses, nursing care, is looking like a bust.

According to Teikoku Databank, a research firm, 26 operators of nursing homes or in-home nursing services went bankrupt last year, up from four in 2004 and the highest number on record. In spite of soaring demand – there are now 4.5m elderly Japanese who need at least some help taking care of themselves, against 2.6m in 2000 – providers are having trouble making a go of it.

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About our regular bloggers

Margaret McCartney is a Glasgow-based GP and FT Weekend columnist. She started writing for the Life and Arts section in 2005 and moved to the magazine in 2008. She also has her own blog: www.margaretmccartney.com/blog

Clive Cookson has been a science journalist for the whole of his working life. He joined the FT in 1987. Clive, the FT's science editor, picks out the research that everyone should know about. He also discusses key policy issues, from R&D funding to science education.

Andrew Jack is pharmaceuticals correspondent, covering the industry and public health issues. He has been a journalist with the FT for 19 years, based in London, Paris and Moscow