Older Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients Sometimes Overlooked

More than 1.5 million U.S. adults experience the swollen joints and pain of rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis can include medications ranging from over-the-counter painkillers and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) to disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) such as Xeljanz and biologics such as Humira and Remicade.

In the past, it was common for a healthcare provider to rely on a stepwise approach to treat rheumatoid arthritis by starting with the medications listed first on the above list, and only subsequently building (if needed) to the later ones. Today it’s known that a more aggressive approach is generally more effective. Particularly when it comes to minimizing joint damage and avoiding disability.

Yet, when the ages of rheumatoid arthritis patients are compared to which types of medications are used, one thing becomes clear:

Senior patients receive biologic therapies less frequently than younger patients.

Research, however, documents that biologics are just as beneficial to patients of any age. This conclusion came from a study of more than 7,000 rheumatoid arthritis patients of a variety of ages who were followed for nearly a year.

This information is important to keep in mind for healthcare providers who treat those with rheumatoid arthritis, with the goal of avoiding under-treating older patient populations.


Jinno S, Onishi A, Akashi K, et al. Are there differences in efficacy and safety of biological disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs between elderly-onset and young-onset rheumatoid arthritis? ACR/ARP Annual Meeting Abstract #1345 2019;71(suppl 10).