by Patrick Cox
June 9, 2017
As things stand right now, most people won’t get the retirements they’ve been promised. Unless there are huge changes, Social Security, Medicare, and pension systems will be severely cut back. This will cause economic impacts worse than the Great Depression. But in two weeks, we should find out if we have a chance to solve the problem before it becomes a catastrophe.
On June 16, the FDA will decide whether or not the TAME clinical trial can proceed. TAME (Targeting Aging with Metformin) is an effort by leading gerontologists to create a legal pathway for the approval of drugs that delay or prevent the diseases of aging.
The Demographic Dilemma
In a perfect instance of synchronicity, the World Economic Forum just issued a white paper titled “We’ll Live to 100—How Can We Afford It?” It describes the massive scope of the growing retirement savings deficit. You can download a PDF of the WEF paper here.
El Jefe John Mauldin has written at some length about this report. When combined with data presented in the CBO’s 2017 long-term budget outlook, we’ve got a clear view of the financial cliff at our feet.
This is our problem. A shrinking base of younger workers can’t pay for our growing older population’s medical and retirement bills. As things stand now, serious cuts in payments to the aged are inevitable. These economic repercussions will not be limited to the aged.
Anti-aging Technologies Are an Answer to the Problem
The WEF paper makes some suggestions about fixing the problem, but it ignores anti-aging biotechnologies. This is unfortunate because we know there are drugs like metformin that would benefit most of us medically. Some even appear to rejuvenate those who are already older.
These therapies would enable dramatic increases in productivity. Nobel prize-winning economist Gary Becker has shown this to be the case. For his explanation of why improving health creates economic growth, download the PDF of Becker’s “Health as Human Capital.”
It’s intuitively obvious, though, that longer health spans reduce medical costs and enable longer working careers. This would increase savings, create economic growth and fund existing programs. But there is no legal pathway for the approval of anti-aging therapies.
The TAME trial is designed to fix that problem. Dr. Nir Barzilai, who is spearheading the effort, has said that the real goal of the TAME study is not the approval of metformin as an anti-aging medication. It would be extremely helpful, but the real benefit would be the creation of a regulatory pathway for more effective anti-aging therapies.
I’ve written about TAME previously, so I won’t repeat myself here. If you want more information, the American Federation for Aging Research has an excellent online resource. A green light from the FDA for the TAME trial would be a signal that the US government is waking up.
It wouldn’t solve the problem of aging. But it would be a necessary first step that would attract capital and increase the value of companies with potential anti-aging therapies.
Eventually, government must do more than get out of the way. As a society, we need to aggressively encourage existing anti-aging strategies. This includes existing life-style and nutritional options. In my fantasies, the Cleveland Clinic’s Chief Wellness Officer Dr. Michael Roizen would be promoted to Surgeon General and given the budget to change the way Americans think about health.
I’d also have the National Institutes of Health prioritize the identification and promotion of effective anti-aging therapies. In addition, a major anti-aging collaboration should be launched with Japan.
With world-class scientists and the oldest population in the world, Japan is uniquely qualified and motivated to address the aging crisis. Though Japan has lower birth rates and an older population than the US, we’re catching up. A record number of Alzheimer’s deaths is one indication.
I’m tracking multiple biotechnologies that appear to significantly delay the decline of vigor and the diseases of aging. This includes Alzheimer’s. I have no doubt that some will be approved. The question is: When?
On June 16, we’ll have a much better idea of how much pain we will have to endure before science solves our biggest economic threat.
— Patrick Cox is the editor of Transformational Technology Alert. Will We Begin to TAME the Age Monster in Two Weeks? originally appeared at Mauldin Economics.