New concepts in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis

Annu Rev Med. 2003;54:197-216. doi: 10.1146/ Epub 2001 Dec 3.


Recent advances have made rheumatoid arthritis (RA) amenable to treatment. Clinical studies in patients with early and established RA have broadened understanding of its pathogenesis and have fundamentally changed the therapeutic approach to this disease. Quantum leaps in therapy-including the use of early, aggressive therapy, combination therapy, and the introduction of anti-cytokine agents-have improved patients' quality of life, eased clinical symptoms, retarded the progression of joint destruction, and delayed disability. We review clinical evidence supporting these therapeutic approaches. Diagnostic and therapeutic challenges are highlighted, and a decision tree to guide treatment in patients with early or established RA is provided.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antirheumatic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / immunology
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Cytokines / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Disease Progression
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans


  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Cytokines