Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory synovitis that is dominated by the presence of macrophages, lymphocytes and synovial fibroblasts, which leads to the destruction of bone and cartilage. The effectiveness of therapies that are directed against tumour-necrosis factor and interleukin-1 has identified macrophages as a crucial target for therapeutic intervention. However, not all patients respond to these therapies, and the benefits of this form of treatment are short lived. Recent work indicates that the insufficient apoptosis of inflammatory cells in the RA joint might contribute to pathogenesis. In this article, I characterize the mechanisms that prevent the apoptosis of chronic inflammatory cells in the RA joint, to identify potential new targets for the treatment of RA.