OBJECTIVES--The objectives were to assess (a) the comparative merits of commonly used disease modifying drugs in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and (b) the influence of age, gender, and disease duration on the outcome of treatment. METHODS--Collected analysis (meta-analysis) was performed on results obtained during the first year of treatment in 1140 patients with RA treated with gold, penicillamine, sulphasalazine, or auranofin from a single centre. RESULTS--Gold, penicillamine, and sulphasalazine performed similarly, with about 60% of patients continuing to receive each of these drugs for at least one year. Neither gender nor age had an influence on the response to treatment, but patients with a longer disease duration showed a greater tendency to stop treatment. The median percentage improvement was 33% in visual analogue pain score and 50% in erythrocyte sedimentation rate. CONCLUSIONS--Routine use of these drugs should at least equal these results. Any new drug should either be substantially less toxic or at least as efficacious.
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