Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic and debilitating disease, affecting an estimated 1% of the population worldwide. The past decade has witnessed an explosion in our understanding of the pathophysiology of rheumatoid arthritis and therefore in our ability to more effectively target the disease process. Although a cure remains elusive, remission is an approachable goal. There has been a complete remodeling of the traditional "pyramid" by rheumatologists, who now treat rheumatoid arthritis earlier and more aggressively than ever before. Standard single therapy with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, which was previously the final step in treating rheumatoid arthritis, is now practically bypassed in the deluge of information suggesting that combinations of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs or newer biologic therapy is more effective. It is difficult to assimilate all the data and develop a rational approach; however, the bottom line is often the deciding factor: the newer agents are tremendously expensive. The intent of this article is to review recent and relevant trials in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, suggest a treatment algorithm, and argue that traditional disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs continue to play a pivotal role.
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