Purpose of review: To give an overview of recent strategy trials for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
Recent findings: Strategy studies showed a clear benefit of dynamic result-driven treatment towards tight control of disease activity compared with 'usual care' in rheumatoid arthritis patients. In addition, treatment given after short symptom duration gives better outcomes than later initiation of treatment. In many trials, combination therapies, especially combinations with prednisolone or biologicals, were superior to monotherapies. Moreover, combination therapies were more effective if given early in the disease as compared with a delayed introduction, giving support to the window of opportunity hypothesis. In the BeSt study, initial combination therapy could be successfully discontinued in half of the patients, emphasizing that 'initial' would mean 'temporary'. Less evidence is available about initial combination in comparison with combination therapy with a shorter delay. Larger tight-controlled, goal-steered, dynamic strategy trials comparing initial combination therapy with a short-delay combination therapy will help to translate the use of initial (temporary) combination therapy into normal daily practice.
Summary: Treatment strategy trials have demonstrated that in the majority of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, the following approach is the most beneficial: goal-steered, dynamic treatment towards tight control of disease activity, including early introduction of (an) effective disease-modifying antirheumatic drug(s) in combination with prednisone or antitumor necrosis factor, which includes tapering of the medication if remission or low disease activity is achieved.