A trial was designed to assess the effects of intramuscular sodium aurothiomalate or intravenous cyclophosphamide, or both, in combination with intravenous 'pulse' methylprednisolone in severe intractable rheumatoid arthritis. Thirteen patients with severe, active rheumatoid arthritis, unresponsive to conventional therapeutic regimens showed improvement in synovitis after receiving a single intravenous bolus of methylprednisolone (15 mg/kg). Early morning stiffness and Ritchie articular index remained improved over pretreatment values after 12 weeks. There was an early fall in the erythrocyte sedimentation rate, which returned to baseline levels by four weeks. A concomitant intravenous pulse of cyclophosphamide (1 g/m2 body surface area) given to eight patients did not confer any additional benefit. Six patients received sodium aurothiomalate, up to 100 mg intramuscularly a week, and in these patients the early improvement in synovitis induced by methylprednisolone was maintained. Thus between 12 and 24 weeks the Ritchie articular index, visual analogue pain score, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, haemoglobin, and immunoglobin G were significantly better in the patients treated with gold and methylprednisolone than in those treated with methylprednisolone alone, irrespective of whether they had received cyclophosphamide. Methylprednisolone pulse therapy given at the start of gold treatment results in early improvement in synovitis, maintained until the usual delay in achieving a therapeutic effect from gold has elapsed.
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