Objective: To investigate the efficacy and tolerability of sulfasalazine (SSZ) in the treatment of early rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods: Eighty patients (symptomatic disease < 12 months) were randomly assigned to treatment with SSZ or placebo for 48 weeks. Clinical, laboratory, and scintigraphic data were used to determine the effects of treatment.
Results: SSZ was superior to placebo in reducing the laboratory features of inflammation, the clinical parameters of disease activity, as well as the scintigraphic activity in the joints. Furthermore, fewer erosive changes developed in the joints of patients receiving active treatment, but the difference between treatment groups did not reach statistical significance.
Conclusion: SSZ is effective in the treatment of RA, and its onset of action is rapid. The results support the view that SSZ retards the development of joint erosions. However, like other conventional disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, its remission-inducing ability is insufficient.