Leflunomide is effective and well tolerated in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), however, data on its use in early RA are scarce. This study seeks to evaluate effectiveness and safety of leflunomide in the treatment of early RA in daily practice. This prospective, open-label, non-interventional, multi-center study was carried out over 24 weeks including adults with early RA (< or =1 year since diagnosis). Leflunomide treatment was according to label instructions. Three hundred thirty-four patients were included. Disease activity score in 28 joints (DAS28) response (reduction in DAS28 of >1.2 or reduction of >0.6 and a DAS28 of < or =5.1) was 71.9% at week 12 and 84.6% at week 24. 25.0% of patients achieved clinical remission (DAS28 < or = 2.6). Most frequently reported adverse drug reactions (ADR) were diarrhea (3.0%), nausea (2.4%), hypertension (1.8%), and headache (1.5%). Serious ADR were reported in four patients (1.2%). Leflunomide showed the effectiveness which was to be expected from controlled studies without revealing any new or hitherto unknown side effects. Onset of action was quick and significant improvement of disease was seen after 12 weeks of therapy and at even higher rates after 24 weeks irrespective of the use of a loading dose. Interestingly, the DAS28-remission rate achieved was similar to the rate seen with methotrexate or biologic therapy in other studies.