Exclusion of older people from clinical trials: professional views from nine European countries participating in the PREDICT study

Drugs Aging. 2011 Aug 1;28(8):667-77. doi: 10.2165/11591990-000000000-00000.


Background: There has been concern about under-representation of older people in clinical trials. The PREDICT study reported that older people and those with co-morbidity continue to be excluded unjustifiably from clinical trials. However, there is no information about differences of opinion on these issues between EU countries. The results of a survey of health-related professionals from nine EU countries that participated in the PREDICT study are presented in this study.

Objective: The aim of the study was to identify and examine any differences of opinion between EU countries on the inclusion of older patients in clinical trials.

Methods: A questionnaire using a Likert scale and free text was completed by 521 general practitioners, geriatricians, clinical researchers, ethicists, nurses and industry pharmacologists/pharmacists. The questions explored the impact of the present situation, possible reasons for under-representation and potential methods of improving participation. Countries participating were the Czech Republic, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain and the UK.

Results: There was agreement that exclusion from clinical trials on age grounds alone was unjustified (87%) and that under-representation of older people in trials caused difficulties for prescribers (79%) and patients (73%). There were national differences between professionals. All but the Lithuanians believed that older people were disadvantaged because of under-representation. The Czech, Lithuanian and Romanian professionals felt that it was justified to have age limits based on co-morbidity (61-83%) and polypharmacy (63-85%). Romanians also thought that having age limits on trial participation was justified because of reduced life expectancy (62%) and physical disability (58%) in older people. All but the Romanian professionals felt that the present arrangements for clinical trials were satisfactory (62%). All but the Israelis (56%) and Lithuanians (70%) agreed that regulation of clinical trials needed alteration.

Conclusions: Although respondent selection bias cannot be excluded, the differences that emerged between countries may be the result of the political and healthcare-system differences between older and newer members of the EU. These differences may influence decision making about clinical trial regulations and practice in older people.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / economics
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / methods*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Comorbidity
  • Epidemiologic Research Design
  • Europe
  • Expert Testimony*
  • Humans
  • Patient Selection* / ethics
  • Physicians
  • Surveys and Questionnaires