Should governments define "old age" as a disease?

Governments today largely refuse to classify old age and its complications as a disease. The result is that there’s not enough funding for fighting aging. What’s more, it’s difficult to research and prescribe medication that could mitigate the aging process.

What do you think about this obstacle?

Governments don’t see old age and its complications as a disease. The consequences of this choice can be observed in several instances. Muscle mass loss, for example, is well known to occur during aging, with a 2-3% annual loss of skeletal muscle strength[4], but the disorder is not recognized by the FDA as a treatable disorder. A research executive in Merck was quoted in the New York Times saying that the result is that “there is no real defined regulatory path as to how one would get approved in this area.”[5]
The FDA generally does not have any criteria which can address treatments that could have a slowing effect on the aging process[6]. As a result, the FDA has yet to allow any medication that targets aging itself on the market[7].

Pharma and start-up companies working on treatments for aging are forced to use a terminology that addresses age-related diseases, rather than focusing on the aging process itself. In the words of Dr. Christoph Westphal, founder of Sirtris Pharmaceutical, “Curing aging is not an endpoint the federal drug agency would recognize.”[6] This approach necessarily means that R&D efforts are redirected towards addressing said diseases, and not towards aging. The situation also limits MD’s ability to prescribe certain drugs to their patients, since one cannot treat a disease that does not officially exist.

Fighting aging is not defined as a medical field, and thus it is difficult for the FDA and other governmental authorities to recognize it as one. This leads to a vicious cycle in which little progress is made in the field due to little funding, which is then justified because the researchers are not making any great strides.

@ymedan - what do you think about this obstacle? Do you think governments should reclassify aging as a disease?

If we classify old age as a disease, then at what age, or stage in their lives, would people become “ill”?

Life is a chronic disease with a known prognosis… Death

Aging is a natural process that can be modulated and controlled up to a point. In recent years we excel in reducing life expectancy, not increasing it, as the onset of chronic conditions is observed at a much younger age.

I am for changing the mindset from “SickCare” to a true health-driven life style. It is the only sustainable and viable option. This is not going to be easy because large parts of the (US) economy rely on the “disease market” to grow. If due to some magical blessing, we all become healthy tomorrow, we are going to face an economical setback… Moreover, people were educated that it is not their own personal responsibility to stay healthy. It is the “healthcare” providers and payers.

Sorry for being blunt.

@ymedan - feel free to be blunt. That’s great for debates. But can you substantiate your position that the US economy will essentially fail if “we all become healthy tomorrow”? It seems to me it’ll be a minor bump in the economy at worst, followed by a great economic boom due to the number of people who can either work again, or their caretakers who get their lives back.

I believe that people got my hypothetical point that if 20% of the GDP vanish, then something big will happen to society. Getting to the future that you portray will require a massive social transformation, whether in peace or in war. This won’t happen in one day, nor all people becoming healthy either :slight_smile:

The point is really that there are companies that strive on people being chronically ill from childhood and there exists an “environment” that let it happen because it is economically viable and rewarding.

Recognizing Degenerative Aging as a Treatable Medical Condition: Methodology and Policy

by Ilia Stambler

I agree with the first point, but not with the second - that the “environment” is maintained that way because it is economically rewarding. Einstein once said that the two great constants are stupidity and cruelty, and it seems to me that in this case, the science is simply not advanced enough to correct the faulty environment yet.

Dear Roey,

Just look at a recent published research on Mortality and Highly Processed Food.
Look at research on the link between pollution and morbidity.
These are all environmental factors known to cause morbidities leading to mortality. And I definitely agree with Einstein about stupidity and cruelty. Science has not find yet a way to cure stupidity and/or influence the political agenda.

But on the bright side, look at an article of a 17 years old highschool student here

From a medical perspective, you could argue that almost all people die of aging. Sure, we designate the official cause of death as heart or liver failure, Alzheimer’s or cancer. But all of these are, in effect, symptoms of aging. Shortening telomeres, inflammation, and the other molecular manifestations of aging weaken our immunity and lead to the conditions that ultimately kill us. Hence, slowing aging would be the most effective means by which to prevent death and all of the diseases that we do recognize as a society.

Aging is clearly a loss of function and hence pathological, as I’ve lined out in several articles.