Objective: To evaluate the effect of treatment on the outcome of very early RA.
Methods: In a 3-year prospective study of 27 patients with very early RA (VERA) (symptoms <4 months before diagnosis) and 122 patients with early RA (symptoms between 4-24 months) the effect of active treatment on the clinical picture, functional capacity, and radiological progression was evaluated.
Results: Initially VERA patients had a more active clinical picture and worse functional capacity. Despite a higher number of DMARDs used in VERA patients, C-reactive protein and Ritchie index remained significantly higher in these patients (although significant improvement occurred). They also had a more rapidly progressive disease (higher Larsen score/month of symptoms) during pre-treatment period, the progression of which was retarded with early, active DMARD therapy. By the end of 3 years, the rate of progression ran parallel in both groups.
Conclusion: Active treatment had an impact on the rate of radiological progression and clinical activity but not on the functional outcome in patients with initially active RA of short duration.