Drug makers are being encouraged to keep aging patients in mind when formulating and packaging drugs. The EMA issued a reflection paper on 01 August 2017, inviting the public to comment on how the pharmaceutical companies can better address the needs of the older population. The EMA is particularly interested in comments regarding routes of administration, dosing form and frequency, excipients, container closure systems, devices and technologies and user instructions. The EMA will take on board feedback from this consultation, where appropriate.

Eurostat, the EU statistics provider, has stated the growth potential for the older population in the EU from 2008 to 2050 is 84 million to 141 million. According to the non-profit organisation, AGE Platform Europe that represents the needs of older people, there is a disparity between life expectancy and wellness.

Anne-Sophie Patent from the organisation says: “We know that life expectancy is increasing, but healthy life expectancy is not increasing in parallel”.

“Therefore, we can expect to face disability or chronic illness, and a need to take several medications, for an increasing number of years”.

The EMA has hailed the development of tailored drugs as timely, given the increase in the ageing population “It is essential that the needs of older (and especially frail) are duly considered in the pharmaceutical development of medicines that may be used in the older population”.

What are tailored drugs?

Crucially, packaging, dosing and swallowability are the main factors to be taken into consideration when developing a drug for the older age group. According to the EMA, medicines are rarely developed or packaged with the needs of older patients in mind, which the Agency says can put them at risk.

“Some older people can’t face challenges such as difficulty opening boxes or bottles, reading instructions or swallowing or breaking tablets and capsules, which can result in medicines not being taken as intended, medication errors and ultimately a reduced quality of life”.

Another organisation has weighed in to the discussion, saying the administration of drugs for older populations is an issue. According to Peter Passmore from the British Geriatrics Society “Any difficulty with medication administration can mean that management of patients’ conditions can be less optimal”.

“Thus, the tailored development of medication, with a preference for oral and liquid preparations is important”.