Table 6

 Research agenda based on expert opinion

• Ultrasonography and power Doppler should be validated for the diagnosis of early synovitis
• MRI should be validated for the diagnosis of synovitis, for showing early erosions and for the prognosis of further joint destruction.
• Accurate classification and diagnostic criteria for early (rheumatoid) arthritis are still lacking and need to be developed.
• Available prediction algorithms for persistent and/or erosive arthritis, and for long term disability should be further evaluated.
• Randomised controlled trials of non-pharmacological interventions in early arthritis are needed.
• The most efficient and effective information/education interventions and exercise programmes for early arthritis need to be determined.
• The role of glucocorticoids in very early arthritis should be evaluated.
• Whether the temporary use of glucocorticoids can prevent the progression of joint destruction if started in early arthritis should be further investigated.
• Effects of temporary use of intensive treatments, such as biologic agents in early arthritis, should be investigated to test if prevention of erosions and cure (a long term remission) of the disease is possible.
• Therapeutic strategies in early arthritis should be tested on the basis of prediction models.
• Studies with an appropriate design to determine the comparative effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of different therapeutic strategies are required.