DMARDs aim to improve long-term prognosis of RA, as indicated by reduced progression of radiographic damage and maintenance of function. However, it may be more appropriate to consider disease-modifying strategies rather than drugs alone. Despite the challenges (e.g. lack of standard outcome measures, poor reporting of dose levels), a systematic review of 15 studies involving more than 1400 patients showed that glucocorticoid treatment for 1-2 years slowed radiographic progression compared with control treatment. Evidence for longer term disease-modifying benefits of glucocorticoids comes from individual studies with extended follow-up. In the Utrecht study, patients with early RA originally assigned to prednisone 10 mg/day for 2 years and then tapered off the therapy showed significantly less radiographic progression at follow-up after a further 3 years than patients originally assigned placebo, with no significant difference in the use of synthetic DMARD therapy. In the combination therapy in early RA (COBRA) study, patients with newly diagnosed RA treated with glucocorticoid (starting with 60 mg/day, quickly reduced to 7.5 mg/day for weeks 7-28 and subsequently stopped), MTX up to week 40 and SSZ showed significantly decreased radiographic progression compared with those treated with SSZ alone. The benefits of short-term combination therapy on disease progression were still apparent at 5-year and 11-year follow-up. In conclusion, there is clear evidence that treatment regimens including low-dose glucocorticoids given early in RA slow radiographic progression, meeting the definition of a DMARD. Furthermore, the evidence suggests that such treatment strategies favourably alter the disease course even after glucocorticoid discontinuation.