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Why are there so few papers on elderly patients in Thorax ?
  1. M MAMUN
  1. University Clinical Department
  2. The Duncan Building
  3. Liverpool L69 3GA, UK
  1. A J KNOX,
  2. J BRITTON
  1. Thorax Editorial Office

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We all know that chest diseases are very common in the elderly. In a recent issue of the BMJ Bugeja et al 1 noted that there were no original research papers published in Thorax between 1 June 1996 and 1 June 1997 that were specific to elderly people (⩾75 years), and that during this time elderly people were excluded unjustifiably in 39 relevant papers in Thorax.

Research in elderly people is difficult, more time consuming, and may be more expensive. The biology of old age differs from middle or young age, and to get valid and, hopefully, reproducible results related to the elderly we must make every effort to include them in clinical trials. With changing demography worldwide this is becoming more relevant.

I hope the paucity of good papers related to the elderly was the only reason for this disappointing number in Thorax compared with other leading journals such as the BMJ,Lancet, and Gut. Maybe the editors are able to throw more light on this and, in the process, perhaps make us all (who have a particular interest in chest diseases) aware of the special need for research into the aging lungs.

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editors’ reply Thank you for drawing theBMJ publication to our attention. It does not surprise us that Thorax publishes fewer papers specific to elderly people than more general journals such as the BMJ and theLancet. We note that, although Thorax did not have any papers specific to elderly people in the time in question, almost half of the studies published in Thorax had no age limit set and would therefore have included elderly patients. Although you single out Thorax from the BMJ paper, the figures for Gut look remarkably similar. The fault in the matter, if indeed there is any, lies with the contributors rather than the Editors as contributors often specifically exclude elderly people from their studies. There are a number of possible reasons for this, many of which may be justified. Dr Mamun can therefore rest assured that there is no ageist editorial policy with the journal. Indeed, one of us has previously published a paper exclusively in the elderly!1-1 Thorax accepts high quality papers in all areas of respiratory medicine with the main criteria of acceptance being their ability to stand up to a rigorous peer review system, thereafter ensuring scientific quality. If a paper is good enough it will be published irrespective of the age of the patients included. Our message to Dr Mamun, as indeed to anyone dealing with elderly patients with chest disease, is this: If you feel that your paper is good enough, send it to us. We promise a very rapid review1-2 and a rigorous review process1-3 which we feel is fair.

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