A study of drug compliance was carried out on 108 patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Thirty-nine per cent were non-compliant with their antirheumatic medication, varying from occasional to complete failure to take the prescribed drugs. Compared with those taking their medication regularly, the non-compliant patients had a significantly lower mean active joint count and average pain severity and a significantly higher proportion had not received an adequate explanation of their disease. However, drug default does not appear to be a significant problem in management of rheumatoid arthritis, as over 90% of patients were taking their medications all or most of the time. Patients with this disease appear motivated to taking their medication regularly by the presence of chronic and often severe pain.