Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic inflammatory disorder that mainly affects the diarthrodial joint. It is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis, and has a substantial societal effect in terms of cost, disability, and lost productivity. Although the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis remains incompletely understood, much insight into the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved has been gained in the past decade. On the basis of these insights, new therapies have been developed, and clinical trials have shown the efficacy of aggressive treatment of patients with active disease. In this review, we discuss improvements in our understanding of the pathophysiology of inflammatory synovitis in rheumatoid arthritis, and improvements in therapy for patients with the disorder. The past decade has seen substantial advances in these areas. Future studies will be directed at improving methods for early diagnosis and identification of patients with progressive disease, and at improving methods to identify candidates for subclasses of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). Long-term safety and efficacy data for the new DMARD agents and combination regimens will also further delineate efficacy and toxicity and thus the appropriate clinical context for use of these therapeutic approaches. The continuing elucidation of pathophysiological pathways relevant in rheumatoid arthritis, coupled with continuing advances in biotechnology and rational drug design, offer substantial hope for the continued development of increasingly potent and specific pharmacotherapy for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.