Seventy two patients with classical or definite rheumatoid arthritis (RA) were randomly allocated to receive gold or D-penicillamine therapy (DPA) in a prospective study designed to evaluate whether it is possible to predict which patients will show radiological progression despite therapy. Forty five patients completed 12 months' treatment. There were no significant demographic or clinical differences between them and the 27 drop outs. Twenty of the 45 patients showed no radiological progression between six and 12 months. These patients had less severe initial radiological damage, lower levels of serum aspartate transaminase (serum AST) and lactic dehydrogenase (LDH), but higher levels of serum cholesterol. Twenty five patients did show progression during the six to 12 month period. This group included all the men with nodules. Of the 43 pretreatment clinical and laboratory variables examined, however, the majority failed to predict whether or not progression would subsequently occur. This included the acute phase response and seropositivity.
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