The challenges of gout management in the elderly

Lisa K Stamp, Sarah Jordan
Drugs & Aging 2011 August 1, 28 (8): 591-603
Gout is common in the elderly and its management is frequently complicated by the presence of co-morbid conditions and medications prescribed for other conditions. The management of gout is 2-fold: (i) treatment of the acute attack to rapidly resolve the pain and inflammation; and (ii) long-term urate-lowering therapy (ULT) to prevent further gouty episodes. NSAIDs, colchicine, corticosteroids and more recently interleukin (IL)-1 inhibitors are effective treatments for acute gout. The choice of agent is determined by the patient's age, co-morbidities and concomitant medications. Renal impairment is of particular concern in the elderly and may preclude the use of NSAIDs and colchicine. The IL-1 inhibitors are rapidly effective but data in the elderly are limited. ULT aiming for a serum urate <0.36 mmol/L, or lower in severe tophaceous gout, is critical for the long-term management of gout. Urate lowering can be achieved by inhibiting the production of uric acid through xanthine oxidase inhibition (allopurinol, febuxostat), increasing uric acid excretion via the kidneys (uricosuric agents: probenecid, benzbromarone) or dissolving uric acid to the more water soluble allantoin (recombinant uricases: pegloticase, rasburicase). Allopurinol is the most commonly used ULT, but there is no consensus on dosing in renal impairment. Febuxostat is effective at lowering serum urate, but there are limited data in the elderly and patients with renal impairment. Furthermore, there are concerns about cardiovascular safety. Probenecid is ineffective in patients with renal impairment (creatinine clearance <60 mL/min) and the availability of benzbromarone is limited because of concerns about its hepatotoxicity. The recombinant uricases provide an exciting new therapeutic option, but there are limited data for their use in the elderly. These agents may be particularly useful in patients with a high urate burden (e.g. those with tophi); however, they may precipitate a severe flare of gout and this will require treatment in its own right. Careful consideration of the patient's concomitant medications is required as many drugs increase serum urate. Successful urate lowering will ultimately reduce gout flares and thereby improve patient quality of life.

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