Early intervention with slow acting anti-rheumatic drugs (SAARDs) has led to improvement in substantial proportion of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients. The present open, controlled study was designed to assess whether a combination of SAARDs offer any added benefit. Fifty-four adult RA patients were randomly allocated to methotrexate (MTX) (n = 27) and MTX plus sulphasalazine (SSZ) (n = 27) groups. The subjects were followed-up fortnightly for four weeks then monthly for six months. The disease activity was assessed with the help of 10 clinical and four laboratory indices. The improvement was graded as: minor, mild decreases in indices, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) continued, physician's global assessment (PGA) decreased by one; marked, acceptable decreases in indices, NSAIDs being taken sparingly, PGA decreased by at least 2, and complete, all indices normalised and patients discontinued NSAIDs completely. The improvement was considered clinically important when marked or complete improvement occurred. Adverse drug reactions resulted in withdrawal of 4 subjects from the MTX + SSZ group and 1 from the control groups. Four and three subjects in the combined and MTX groups respectively were lost to follow-up. Subjects in both groups showed significant decline in all indices except hemoglobin and neutrophil count. The differences between the two groups in the pre-treatment and post-treatment values were insignificant. Complete, marked, minor and no improvement occurred in 4 (21%), 12 (63%), 3 (16%) & 0 in the MTX and in 11 (48%), 7 (30%), 4 (17%) & 1 (4%) in MTX + SSZ groups respectively. The differences in the rates of complete and clinically important improvement between the two groups were insignificant (P 0.1398 and 0.7092). The incidence of side effects was insignificantly higher in the MTX + SSZ group. Most of them were mild and transient. The combination of SAARDs offered little added advantage in RA. However, the higher rate of complete improvement in the combination group justifies trials including larger samples.