Diabetes research ignores older people, study finds

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Far too few clinical trials are focused on seniors with diabetes, according to an analysis recently published in the journal Diabetologia.

Researchers at the Duke University School of Medicine looked at about 2,500 diabetes-related trials that appeared on the ClinicalTrials.gov website between 2007 and 2010. Only 1% of the studies focused specifically on older people, the researchers found. Seniors were “explicitly excluded” from more than 30% of the trials.

"When trials are excluding patients who are older or younger, it's questionable whether the trial findings can be applied to people in those age groups," said study author Jennifer Green, M.D. "We really don't understand how best to manage disease in these patients – particularly among patients of advanced age. So the exclusion of them from most studies and the small number of trials that specifically enroll older individuals is problematic."

Very few of the trials focused on how diabetes treatments relate to the incidence of heart attacks, stroke and death, according to the researchers. An increasing focus on how diabetes medications impact cardiovascular health should boost research in this area, Green said.