Current view of glucocorticoid co-therapy with DMARDs in rheumatoid arthritis

Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2010 Dec;6(12):693-702. doi: 10.1038/nrrheum.2010.179.


Glucocorticoids are widely used anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive drugs for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The disease-modifying potential of low to medium doses of glucocorticoids has been reconfirmed in the past decade, and co-administration of DMARDs and glucocorticoids has become standard in many treatment protocols, especially those for early disease stages but also for long-standing RA. The glucocorticoid regimens used range from continuous low doses to intermittent high doses. Studies of the rationale for and clinical use of glucocorticoids as co-therapy with DMARDs in RA have shown that this approach has a place in modern (tight control) treatment strategies, and that glucocorticoid co-therapy has disease-modifying effects during the first 2 years of treatment in patients with early RA. Furthermore, medium and high doses of glucocorticoids are useful for bridging the interval between initiation of DMARDs and onset of their therapeutic effect. Intra-articular glucocorticoids give good local control and have been used in tight control strategies. New glucocorticoid compounds are becoming available for clinical use that might have an enhanced risk:benefit ratio. Better monitoring of glucocorticoid use will also improve this ratio, and help to allay both patient and rheumatologist concerns about treatment-related adverse effects.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antirheumatic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Glucocorticoids