Here’s an interesting report in the Wall Street Journal on plans to run a large clinical trial with metformin. That compound has a lot of effects, and many of them seem as if they could be beneficial in an aging population.
Dr. Barzilai expects to enroll more than 1,000 elderly participants in the randomized, controlled clinical trial to be conducted at multiple research centers and take five to seven years. The project is in the preliminary stages and permanent funding hasn’t yet been secured. Funding for the planning phase is coming from the American Federation for Aging Research, a nonprofit organization of which Dr. Barzilai is deputy scientific director.
The trial aims to test the drug metformin, a common medication often used to treat Type 2 diabetes, and see if it can delay or prevent other chronic diseases. (The project is being called Targeting/Taming Aging With Metformin, or TAME.) Metformin isn’t necessarily more promising than other drugs that have shown signs of extending life and reducing age-related chronic diseases. But metformin has been widely and safely used for more than 60 years, has very few side effects and is inexpensive.
I hope this gets off the ground, for just those reasons. The study itself will not be cheap, but (as the article notes) it could pioneer some ways of looking at aging in the clinic, and we need for people to be taking steps in that direction. The planet’s population, on the average, is not getting any younger, as birth rates level off (or plunge outright), and healthy lifespan is a bigger and bigger issue.
andy Walsh, an FDA spokeswoman, said the agency’s perspective has long been that “aging” isn’t a disease. “We clearly have approved drugs that treat consequences of aging,” she said. Although the FDA currently is inclined to treat diseases prevalent in older people as separate medical conditions, “if someone in the drug-development industry found something that treated all of these, we might revisit our thinking.”
As well they might. This is worth keeping an eye on, for sure.