Harvard study finds older people underrepresented in COVID-19 trials

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has led to the initiation of large numbers of clinical trials worldwide aimed at finding a vaccine and effective treatments. According to the ClinicalTrials.gov database, there are more than 1,300 clinical trials registered (195 in phase I, 817 in phase II, 442 in phase III, 188 in phase IV). 

In spite of evidence that older people are disproportionately impacted by the virus with 8 out of 10 deaths from the disease in the US occurring in over 65s, a new report released by Harvard Medical School finds that older people are being excluded and underrepresented in clinical trials. The ongoing study shows "around 15% of clinical trials for COVID-19 systematically exclude adults between the ages of 65 and 80". 

Reasons cited for excluding older people include the prevalence of comorbidities in older people such as dementia and other conditions. However, the report authors say that routine exclusion of older people from COVID-19 trials may negatively impact results for example a vaccine only tested on younger age groups may not be effective in older people.

Read more about the research here.