Considering patient age when treating multiple sclerosis across the adult lifespan

Expert Rev Neurother. 2021 Mar;21(3):353-364. doi: 10.1080/14737175.2021.1886082. Epub 2021 Feb 17.


Introduction: The successful development of anti-inflammatory disease-modifying treatments (DMT) significantly improved disease outcomes and longevity of persons with multiple sclerosis (pwMS). However, the shift toward an elderly MS population has resulted with new concerns regarding DMT efficacy and safety.Areas covered: This review summarizes the evidence of an age-based decrease in the efficacy of MS DMTs and increase in pharmacovigilance concerns. The age effects on pathophysiological MS processes, immunosenescence and its relevance to DMT selection or discontinuation are also reviewed. Lastly, the authors discuss the influence of age-associated comorbidities on DMT initiation and drug-induced events.Expert opinion: There is an age discrepancy between pwMS included in regulatory drug trials and an aging real-world MS population. Most trials demonstrate significantly diminished anti-inflammatory efficacy in patients older than 40 years old. Older age is associated with a greater risk for adverse events including serious infections. Age-associated comorbidities influence the risk-benefit analysis and sometimes cause patients to discontinue DMTs. Instead of chronological age cutoffs, therefore, studies should aim at promoting biologically-based age biomarkers.

Keywords: Multiple sclerosis; adverse events; age; comorbidities; disease modifying treatment; immunosenescence; infection risk.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Humans
  • Longevity
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / drug therapy
  • Risk
  • Treatment Outcome