I’ve mentioned numerous times around here that therapies directed against aging in general have a rough regulatory outlook. The FDA, in general, has not considered aging a disease by itself, but rather the baseline against which disease (increasingly) appears. This has meant that companies with ideas for anti-aging therapies have had to work them into other frameworks – diabetes, osteoporosis, what have you – in order to get clinical data that the agency will be able to work with.
Now, according to Nature News, the group that’s testing metformin for a variety of effects in elderly patients is going to meet with the FDA to address just this issue:
Barzilai and other researchers plan to test that notion in a clinical trial called Targeting Aging with Metformin, or TAME. They will give the drug metformin to thousands of people who already have one or two of three conditions — cancer, heart disease or cognitive impairment — or are at risk of them. People with type 2 diabetes cannot be enrolled because metformin is already used to treat that disease. The participants will then be monitored to see whether the medication forestalls the illnesses they do not already have, as well as diabetes and death.
On 24 June, researchers will try to convince FDA officials that if the trial succeeds, they will have proved that a drug can delay ageing. That would set a precedent that ageing is a disorder that can be treated with medicines, and perhaps spur progress and funding for ageing research.
During a meeting on 27 May at the US National Institute on Aging (NIA) in Bethesda, Maryland, Robert Temple, deputy director for clinical science at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, indicated that the agency is open to the idea.
Metformin and rapamycin are two of the compounds that would fit this way of thinking, and there will surely be more. Let’s face it – any other syndrome that caused the sorts of effects that age does on our bodies would be considered a plague. To quote Martin Amis’s lead character in Money, who’s thinking about an actress he’s casting in a movie who “time had been kind to”, he goes on to note that “Over the passing years, time had been cruel to nearly everybody else. Time had been wanton, virulent and spiteful. Time had put the boot in.” It sure does.
But we’re used to it, and it happens to everyone, and it happens slowly. Does it have to be that way? The history of medicine is a refusal to play the cards that we’ve been dealt, and there’s no reason to stop now.