Pharma: October 2009 Archives


October 2, 2009

The Times has an interesting article about how life extension research is getting more respectable. Obviously, really good life extension/anti-aging therapies would be world-changing, but even modestly effective drugs would have a big impact (imagine the effect of having to pay another 5 years of Social Security and Medicare for half the senior citizens in the US).

I want to focus on a rather more trivial effect, though: age grouping in athletic events. Athletic performance is fairly strongly correlated to age, so many amateur sports provide awards in different age categories (typically 5 or 10 year brackets). Even one age bracket can make a real difference: for instance at last year's Ironman World Championship, the 5th place finisher in M35-39 would have won M40-44. Similarly, the 6th place finisher in M40-44 would have won M45-49. The gap between the first place in M35-39 and M45-49 is around 30 minutes (~5%), so if you had a medication which reduced your physiological age by 5-10 years, that would represent a huge advantage. The problem from a doping control perspective is that you can't really ban people from taking a drug which extends their lifespan by 5-10 years, but people on this drug (which certainly won't initially be everyone) are going to have a big advantage over their competitors, who aren't on the drug. It will be interesting to see how the doping control regime responds to this sort of development (assuming it actually happens).