Early rheumatoid arthritis: toward tailor-made therapy

Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2003 Aug;5(4):287-93. doi: 10.1007/s11926-003-0007-7.


Therapeutic possibilities for the treatment of early rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have expanded largely. New treatment modalities appear very effective with respect to relevant outcomes, such as radiographic progression. At the same time, the costs of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) have exponentially increased so that--given the rather high prevalence of RA--cost may become a limiting factor in the treatment of patients with RA. Therefore, there is a need to define the profile of those patients that should be treated with the most effective, and, unfortunately, the most costly, DMARDs. The authors describe herewith the heterogeneity of RA with respect to its most important outcomes, as well as the inability to predict those outcomes appropriately at the individual patient level. This heterogeneity of RA is not acknowledged in the modern landmark clinical trials that the authors base therapeutic decisions on, and the external validity of those trials is at stake. In this article, the authors discuss the consequences of the heterogeneity of RA in light of the perceived lack of external validity of evidence-generating landmark trials. The authors propose the following solutions to overcome this discrepancy: 1) earlier recognition of RA, and 2) appropriate prediction of treatment efficacy, because the most challenging scientific efforts may be taken in the near future in order to arrive at a tailor-made therapy for every individual presenting with RA.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnosis*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / immunology
  • Disease Progression
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Rheumatoid Factor / blood
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Rheumatoid Factor