Objectives: To determine whether subjects older than 75 years are included in the randomized controlled trials of antiparkinsonian medications conducted during the last 30 years and to identify study characteristics that are associated with the exclusion of patients of advanced age.
Methods: A systematic search was conducted on MEDLINE from January 1966 until September 1996 of all randomized controlled trials of drugs used to treat the motor symptoms of Parkinson disease. Articles were abstracted for the age of subjects date of publication, geographic location, drug class studied, stage of Parkinson disease of subjects, and the number of subjects in each trial.
Results: One hundred twelve articles met the inclusion criteria. The weighted mean (+/- SD) age for subjects in all trials was 62.2 +/- 3.9 years. Forty-two studies (37.5%) included subjects older than 75 years. However, in 31 articles (27.7%) it could not be determined if subjects older than 75 years were included. Among the 8 studies that provided the actual number of subjects within specific age groups, only 8 (5.5%) of 145 subjects were older than 75 years. Publication in the last decade was significantly associated with a decreased likelihood of including subjects older than 75 years (odds ratio, 0.19; 95% confidence interval, 0.06-0.62).
Conclusions: The relatively small number of subjects older than 75 years included in controlled trials of antiparkinsonian drugs seriously impedes our understanding of the efficacy and safety of these drugs in a large subgroup of frail patients for whom these products are prescribed. The tendency to exclude subjects of advanced age is highest in the most recently published articles that study new advances in pharmacotherapy. There is inadequate reporting of the age characteristics of subjects in clinical trials. This limitation hinders the synthesis of data regarding drug efficacy and toxicity relevant to older age groups.