Rheumatoid arthritis is a common disease affecting 1% of adults in the UK and western countires. No single outcome measure comprehensively captures the full range of potential outcomes in early rheumatoid arthritis, so a range of measures are needed. This article evaluates the clinical and economic outcomes of early rheumatoid arthritis. These include pain, which is a major concern for patients, fatigue and persisting disease activity. The key therapeutic goal - remission of these clinical features - is achieved by 10-36% of early rheumatoid arthritis patients using currently available treatment. Disability, erosive damage and work disability are other important negative outcomes of early rheumatoid arthritis. Together, they account for its high direct and indirect medical costs. These various outcomes are outlined in this article.