Second-line antirheumatic drugs in the elderly with rheumatoid arthritis: a post hoc analysis of three controlled trials

Pharmacotherapy. 1990;10(2):79-84.


This study assessed the relative efficacy and toxicity of second-line antirheumatic drugs in patients 65 years of age or older compared to younger counterparts. The results of three prospective, double-blind, parallel, randomized, multicenter trials were reanalyzed, stratifying outcomes by intervention and patient age. Efficacy was assessed by categorizing patient responses as follows: important improvement, no meaningful change, or progressive disease. Toxicity was analyzed by comparing withdrawal rates due to adverse effects. The three trials compared the following treatments: (1) D-penicillamine 10-12 mg/day versus azathioprine 1.25-1.5 mg/kg/day; (2) gold sodium thiomalate 50 mg intramuscularly weekly versus auranofin 6 mg/day versus placebo; and (3) pulse oral methotrexate 7.5-15.0 mg weekly versus placebo. At baseline, 103 patients age 65 or older were similar to 485 patients less than 65 years of age, with the exception of disease duration in all studies and erythrocyte sedimentation rate in one study. For patients completing each study, efficacy outcomes based on age were not significantly different. Withdrawal rates due to adverse drug reactions were also not significantly different.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Aged
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • Auranofin / adverse effects
  • Auranofin / therapeutic use*
  • Azathioprine / adverse effects
  • Azathioprine / therapeutic use*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Evaluation
  • Female
  • Gold Sodium Thiomalate / adverse effects
  • Gold Sodium Thiomalate / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intramuscular
  • Male
  • Methotrexate / adverse effects
  • Methotrexate / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic
  • Penicillamine / adverse effects
  • Penicillamine / therapeutic use*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Random Allocation
  • Time Factors


  • Gold Sodium Thiomalate
  • Auranofin
  • Penicillamine
  • Azathioprine
  • Methotrexate