Association Between Participant Retention and the Proportion of Included Elderly People in Rheumatology Trials: Results From a Series of Exploratory Meta-Regression Analyses

Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2020 Oct;72(10):1490-1496. doi: 10.1002/acr.24051.


Objective: The elderly, a population defined by an age of ≥65 years, are underrepresented in rheumatology trials, possibly due to investigators' concerns of increased premature discontinuations in higher age groups. The present study was undertaken to evaluate whether the proportion of included elderly individuals (PE) is independently associated with participant retention in rheumatology trials.

Methods: Medline was searched for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA) of any intervention (years 2016 and 2017). PE was either extracted from the research manuscript or estimated from an assumed (truncated) normal distribution. We used mixed-effects meta-regression models including several covariates to assess whether there is an independent association between PE and participant retention. Using sensitivity analyses, we evaluated whether associations were connected to attrition due to lack of efficacy (LoE) or adverse events (AE).

Results: In total, 243 RCTs comprising >48,000 participants were included. Pooled participant retention was 88%. PE was not associated with retention in the unadjusted (P = 0.97) or adjusted (all: P ≥ 0.14) models. Of all covariates, only study duration and type of intervention were associated with retention (both: P < 0.001). Post hoc analyses allowing for interaction revealed a small but statistically significant positive association between PE and retention in pharmacologic interventions and a negative association in physical/physiotherapeutic interventions (overall P for interaction = 0.05). No associations were found for PE and attrition due to LoE or AE.

Conclusion: Participant retention in RA and OA trials is high and not associated with PE. These findings should motivate investigators to include more elderly participants in rheumatology trials.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / therapy
  • Humans
  • Osteoarthritis / therapy
  • Regression Analysis
  • Retention in Care*
  • Rheumatology*