Two hundred patients with rheumatoid arthritis were studied in a prospective open trial comparing treatment with sulphasalazine and auranofin in patients with active disease over 12 months. The two drugs improved many parameters of disease activity at 12, 24, and 48 weeks. At 12 weeks, the group treated with sulphasalazine had a lower platelet count (Mann-Whitney U test), erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and articular index, with a greater decrease in erythrocyte sedimentation rate (Students t test) and C reactive protein between 0 and 12 weeks. There were no significant differences between sulphasalazine and auranofin treatment after 24 and 48 weeks. Life table analysis showed no significant differences in the rate of side effects which caused treatment to be stopped. Sulphasalazine works more rapidly, may be a more effective disease modifying antirheumatic drug, and is as well tolerated as auranofin.