To ease pressure on hospitals managing chronic conditions, preventing disease and slowing its progression when it does occur, we need to invest in the maintenance of health[1].  The Targeting Ageing with Metformin (“TAME”) clinical trial claims to do just that – slowing down the ageing process by looking to “increase health, not look for eternal life”[2].

The difficulties of obtaining approval for such a trial, due to the number of “spurious claims of ‘anti-ageing’ technologies and therapies on the market”, are noted in the Telegraph article[3].  In addition, there are many pressures that are created by an ageing population – whilst these trials may be able to prolong life, can they really preserve its quality?  Will people be expected to retire later? Otherwise, the burden on the working population to support the growing retired population could increase significantly.  Would independence be maintained? At what point, for example, would one become unfit to drive?  The GMC is already alive to the issue of unfitness to drive, consulting on changes to its confidentiality guidance, which would place on doctors a duty to report patients who are unfit to drive to the DVLA if they continue to drive and cannot be persuaded to stop.[4]  We can already envisage difficulties arising for doctors, in situations where accidents occur and no report had been made – where will the burden of responsibility fall?

[1] Rifat Atun, Harvard University, in “Defying death is causing back pain, bad teeth and depression”, New Scientist (6 June 2015)
[2] S. Knapton, “World’s first anti-ageing drug could see humans live to 120”, The Telegraph, 29 November 2015
[3] Ibid.
[4] GMC Confidentiality: draft guidance for consultation


Written by Greg McEwen, healthcare partner