The probability of continuation of a particular nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug (NSAID) over 5 years was estimated for 1,775 courses taken by 532 patients with rheumatoid arthritis treated in 7 rheumatology private practices. Similar results were seen for 15 different NSAID--48% of courses were continued at 12 months, 36% at 24 months, and 20% at 60 months. Only acetylated salicylates, other than plain aspirin, were continued significantly longer than any of the other NSAID. The probability of continuation of plain aspirin was similar to other NSAID, including nonacetylated salicylates and nonsalicylate NSAID. The first NSAID taken by an individual patient was continued only marginally longer than the 4th NSAID taken by the same patient. While most NSAID courses were not continued for long periods, 20% were continued for longer than 5 years, suggesting effective longterm results in this minority of courses.