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  • Anti-Aging Pills Are In The Dog House

    May 25, 2016: by Bill Sardi

    Yes, a bona fide anti-aging pill made the front-page of the New York Times recently.  And this time it wasn’t resveratrol.

    Researcher Matt Kaeberlein at the University of Washington was shown in a photograph throwing a toy to one of his study subjects – his dog.  And that article in the NY Times got trumped by the many, many comments from readers that revealed just how well the public warms up to the idea of an anti-aging pill (not very).  In fact, a follow-up story entitled “Many Readers Say No To Idea of Life-Extending Drug, But Yes For Their Pets,” was more revealing.

    I’m going to intersperse some of the comments from readers of New York Times article in between my comments.

    Would give this drug to my dogs because I would want them to live longer, but for myself? Not so much. I don’t want to live 25% longer.  –NY Times reader

    Not sure I want to live forever, but my dog? YES!
    – NY Times reader

    I exchanged emails with Matt Kaeberlein a few months ago when he first announced his study in dogs.  In the recent NY Times he reported on a preliminary stage of his research (unpublished) which showed dogs with weakened hearts might benefit from an anti-aging pill.

    I told Dr. Kaeberlein that among all the researchers at work in the field of longevity, his research would predictably gain the most attention from the public because of their love for dogs.

    In the news business the rule is “if it bleeds it leads.”  Gory news stories take priority but news involving dogs trumps all, I told him.  I predicted he was going to do more to warm up the public to the idea of an anti-aging pill than any other research study or advertising campaign.

    Fact is, Americans spend more on their pets than they do for anti-aging pills for themselves.  Americans spent an estimated $9.5 billion on dog food per year. [Nielsen survey]  Seven of ten American pet owners have dogs.

    Limit this to only beloved pets and I’m all for it.
    —NY Times reader

    I have often said, the people in most need of these youth pills are the aged.  But we often find widowed retirees whose dogs provide needed companionship and diversion from loneliness.

    I soon recognized retirees only have so much disposable income to spend.   If you are going to sell an anti-aging pill to senior Americans, you will be competing with the limited discretionary dollars they have left after paying for food, rent and medicines, and yes, dog food.  Their pet dog is the anti-aging pill marketer’s chief competitor.

    If someone could extend my dog’s life, it would vastly improve the quality of my life. I’d be more interested in extending the life in dogs than in humans. In the end, we all die. It’s barely worthy of research dollars to extend human lives. But since pets’ lifespans are so much shorter than our own, extending their lives would add much value-added qualities to ours.  – NY Times reader

    Many Americans just can’t do without their dogs.  It is not uncommon for females, who produce the nurturing hormone oxytocin, to say they just couldn’t live without their dog(s).   One dog lover said in the New York Times: “I don’t own my dog, my dog owns me.”

    In fact, for men, dogs are maybe the best “chick magnet” going.  Probably long after children have been raised more marriages have been sustained by dogs meeting the female need to nurture than marriage counseling could possibly save.

    Why are we testing drugs on another species? It’s not only of little value.  If some humans want a magic bullet to live longer, then they should be the ones exposed to the potential risks of experimental drugs.  – NY Times reader

    Of the three most often mentioned anti-aging pills, metformin the anti-diabetic drug, rapamycin the drug used to calm autoimmune reactions among organ donors, and resveratrol the red wine pill, only a very few Americans are using any of these for the purpose of extending their healthy years.

    Whose blessing or approval, the FDA, the Pope, Presidential Executive Order, Medicare Approval, will the public await before it opts for an eternal youth pill?  Maybe public demand for anti-aging pills will be created the most unlikely authority, Fido.

    Over a decade ago an anti-aging researcher confided in me to say a leading maker of dog food had underwritten a study using resveratrol as an additive to dog chow.  The results of that study, he said, were very positive and dog owners, prompted by the profound changes in their pets, were asking how they could get some of this elixir for themselves.  That study was never published and the idea was thrown under the rug for some unknown reason.

    Despite there being 494 brands of resveratrol pills on the market [Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database;], red wine pills aren’t in the top 100 herbal supplements being sold in the U.S. and sales were decimated when a leading researcher was unfairly accused of scientific fraud.  [] There may be larger hidden forces at work to keep the idea of an anti-aging pill at bay.

    In 1998 a fictional book entitled ELIXIR, written by Scott Van De Mark, was about the discovery of an anti-aging that the Pope refused to endorse and population control groups opposed.  It became a success when it was rumored the President of the United States was taking the pill.  However, two groups representing casket makers and mortuaries raised funds to buy up the company marketing the pill and take it off the market.  []

    The subject of the NY Times news report was about researcher Matt Kaeberlein at the University of Washington having launched a trial of rapamycin, an FDA-approved drug for humans, in dogs.   Rapamycin, known as a drug target of rapamycin, is an (mTOR) inhibitor.  Calm the mTOR gene and you slow aging. [Cellular & Molecular Life Sciences; Oncotarget] In the laboratory, rapamycin extended the life of mice by 25%.

    If ever there were a time for the fountain of youth to be discovered it is now.  So many millions of Americans are living into their eighth and ninth decade of life and beyond.  The crying need is for something to extend their healthspan along with their lifespan.  Yet so many retirees are concerned they will run out of money should they live 120 years, believed to be the maximum human lifespan.

    We have not so much extended life, as drawn out the process of dying. We can’t afford to have people retiring at 65 and routinely living to 106, no matter how healthy they are, and even if they could work, rapidly changing societies no longer need their skills. Extending life, in itself, is more of a threat than a solution. – NY Times reader

    I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of a drug to make people live longer, but I’m puzzled by all the comments against it. – NY Times reader

    But, God bless them, nine million senior Americans are still working in their retirement years.  A pill that would prolong independence, help maintain a drivers license, delay the expense for nursing home care and reduce healthcare spending would save America from its aging catastrophe and predicted explosion in caring for patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

    But no, the public fears old age.  They have images of being confined to a wheelchair in their waning years, diapered and drooling from the mouth for longer periods of time should an anti-aging pill arise.  That is what modern medicine has produced, over-drugged seniors who are banished to a nursing home.  Senior Americans can only fathom more years living in misery should such a pill materialize.

    My mother died last April at the age of 96. For at least 15 years before, she was miserable.  – NY Times reader

    Speaking as someone well into middle age, I will state categorically that I do not want to be looking after my elders for an extra 25 years. They are already into their 80’s. No how, no way do I want them until around until they’re 110. And how are we supposed to pay for their care for 25 more years?  – NY Times reader

    Must society resort to the culling of its population (i.e. Soylent Green) to deal with the coming catastrophic insolvency of Medicare and Social Security?

    In Great Britain, the National Health Service is projected to run a 2-billion pound loss.  Hospitals there have been accused of failing to supply drinking water (some patients were drinking out of flower vases) and letting them die of dehydration as the perfect way to pare down their bed count.  [Express UK]

    In 1993 in what appears to have been an experiment of some kind, a flu vaccination program resulted in 93,000 excess deaths that year that was so severe it resulted in the first increase in the death rate in the U.S. since the 1918 Spanish Flu.  Yet no health authorities or news agencies reported this.  [News With Views]

    Dr. S. Jay Olshansky of the University of Illinois proposes a “longevity dividend,” a goal of seven more healthy independent years of living that would predictably save Medicare from insolvency.  But opposition is certain.  With more healthy years comes less income for drugs and doctoring.  As geneticist David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School has stated, an anti-aging pill like resveratrol would replace maybe 20 existing drugs.

    I want to take just 10 pills a day when I get older. One to lower my cholesterol. One to lower my blood pressure. One to keep my weight down. One to keep my sugar levels constant. One to keep my testosterone levels up. One to keep my depression at bay. One to make sure I get all the nutrition that I might miss by not eating a completely healthy diet. One to keep the chronic pain from the car accident that I had 20 years ago in check. One to keep me sexually functional. One to keep the plaques and tangles in check in my pre-Alzheimer’s brain.  And if those pills all work, then and only then, I will be ready for one more pill to add 20 years to my life.  – NY Times reader

    The fact is, most Americans would choose a pill that produced a young look in the mirror over a pill that results in more years, even better years.  Americans want thick hair, smooth skin and Viagra baby!

    If you looked and worked like a 30 year old when you’re 45 I don’t think there would be a problem, do you?  – NY Times reader

    I think it would be great to be able to take a pill to help slow down the deterioration that comes with age. Why not?  – NY Times reader

    To appease the inevitable demand for an anti-aging pill, be it even from a relatively small portion of the population, a $50 million human clinical study has been proposed using the anti-diabetic pill metformin, which is a very economical prescription drug.  However, it is only expected to increase the human lifespan in developed countries by a modest 8%.  [] Modern medicine may adopt an anti-aging pill, but it will be on its own terms.

    The question arises, if an anti-aging drug is approved by whatever agency, how will it be prescribed?  Will it be prescribed for adults who reach a certain age or who are diagnosed with premature aging?  If so, what would be the criteria?

    While there is much more to say about anti-aging pills and whether they will ever be allowed to make an impact or not, I responded to the New York Times article by penning the following on their comment page:

    What would you think if you learned a dog food company sponsored studies over a decade ago and never published the results — that dogs lived longer and healthier given a molecular mimic of a calorie-restricted diet (resveratrol)?

    What would you think if you learned the life insurance industry exerted its influence in the 1970s to closet much of the anti-aging research that is being revealed today?

    We often spend more on our dogs’ health than we do on our own.

    A limited calorie diet (about 1 meal a day) doubled the lifespan and health span of lab animals.  The idea of an anti-aging pill is to do this without deprivation.

    After a decade of marketing an anti-aging pill I can say more people desire a youth pill over a life-extension pill.  Thick dark hair, smooth skin and Viagra is what people want.  The mirror tells all.

    If we can extend our lives to live 7 more healthy independent years we will avert the insolvency of Medicare.

    We are living longer but in chronic state of disease.  The blogger who wrote he would take a pill for testosterone, another for cholesterol, another to control depression, etc. doesn’t understand these anti-aging drugs would replace most other drugs.

    Populations in developed countries (western Europe, North America, Japan) are declining, not growing.  With fewer young people to support the old, the old must remain healthy and independent.

    Presumably, dog owners’ interest in an anti-aging pill for their hounds rather than themselves is understandable given the likelihood they will outlive heir below pets.  For now, an anti-aging pill will remain in the doghouse.  ©2016 Bill Sardi,

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