NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Most patients aged 65 years or more with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) appear to tolerate anti-tumor necrosis factor (anti-TNF) therapy well, according to Swiss researchers.

Dr. Cem Gabay of the University Hospital of Geneva and colleagues studied data on 1571 RA patients who had received at least 1 dose of anti-TNF agents over a 10-year period. The investigators report their findings in the May 15th issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Of this group, 344 were aged 65 years or more at the time of initial treatment. Comparison of discontinuation rates showed no difference between this group and younger patients. The median time to discontinuation was about 3 years in both groups.

There also were no differences in the mean change in Disease Activity in 28 Joints ratings at 2 years. However, Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) scores improved significantly less in elderly patients. This was essentially due to lower scores in those aged more than 75 years.

The researchers conclude, "Age in itself should not interfere with the decision to treat elderly patients with RA with anti-TNF agents." However, in patients over the age of 75 years, they add, "No functional improvement according to HAQ should be expected despite improvements in disease activity."