Although several agents (for example, intramuscularly administered gold, auranofin, D-penicillamine, hydroxychloroquine, and methotrexate) are of clinical benefit in the management of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), their effect on the long-term outcome of the disease is controversial. Assessment of the influence of therapeutic interventions in RA is difficult because the natural history of the disease remains poorly defined and unpredictable, and neither the traditional clinical and laboratory measurements of inflammation nor radiographic analyses of progression of joint destruction provide an accurate estimate of the long-term outcome of RA. Furthermore, there is little evidence that second-line agents yield benefits beyond 3 years. Therefore, adequately tested comprehensive measures should be used in large, long-term, multicenter controlled clinical trials to determine whether the long-term outcome of RA can be altered.
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