• Open Access

Regulatory issues in aging pharmacology


Franz F. Hefti, PhD, Rinat Neuroscience Corporation, 230 East Grand Ave., South San Francisco, CA 94080, USA. Tel.: 650-615-7381; fax: 650-615-7502; e-mail: hefti@rinatneuro.com


Many current drugs increase the average lifespan by preventing fatal diseases or by slowing down the progressive degenerative diseases that increase mortality. The existing strategies and guidelines for the development and regulatory approval of new drugs are designed for such compounds. Rapid advances in understanding molecular mechanisms of aging make it possible to envisage future drugs that extend the lifespan by regulating aging mechanism outside of disease pathways. Strategies for development and regulatory approval of such drugs remain to be defined. Since the drug candidates will be given to healthy, elderly subjects, safety requirements will be extremely high. Clinical studies of many years’ duration will be necessary to prove changes in longevity. These time intervals may exceed those of patent protection and thus minimize commercial incentives. Despite these challenges, two broadly defined pathways are feasible. First, it may be possible to obtain public funding for studies with voluntary participation of humans consuming existing drugs or natural compounds in the ‘expected to be safe’ category. Second, the development of novel drugs may proceed on the basis of well-defined biomarkers of aging that can serve as surrogate end points in clinical studies. The emerging approaches will prompt the regulatory agencies into taking the first steps towards regulatory guidance.