A defective hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis has been associated with susceptibility to arthritis in rats and with rheumatoid arthritis in humans. The effect of corticosteroid supplementation in early RA has not been tested previously. We undertook a double-blind placebo-controlled study of sulphasalazine plus either corticosteroid or placebo. No early benefit was demonstrated as 7 of 11 of the corticosteroid supplemented group had withdrawn by 1 year. The addition of corticosteroids to sulphasalazine in patients with early disease did not appear to offer any benefit.