BACKGROUND Neoangiogenesis occurring in inflamed articular synovium in early rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is characterized by enhanced vascular permeability that allows nanoparticle agents, including liposomes, to deliver encapsulated drugs to arthritic joints and subsequently improve therapeutic efficacy and reduce adverse effects. However, the targeting distribution of liposomes in arthritic joints during RA has not been quantitatively demonstrated. We performed this study to evaluate the targeting distribution of PEGylated doxorubicin liposomes in the arthritic joints of collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) rats by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). MATERIAL AND METHODS Two doxorubicin formulations were administered to CIA rats via tail intravenous injection at a single dose (50 mg/m²). CIA rats were sacrificed and the tissues of the inflamed ankle joints were collected. The content of doxorubicin in the arthritic joints was analyzed by a validated and reproducible HPLC method. A two-way ANOVA for 2×5 factorial design was used for statistical analysis. RESULTS The developed HPLC method was sensitive, precise, and reproducible. The method was successfully applied to quantify doxorubicin content in arthritic tissues. At each time point (6, 12, 24, 48, and 72 h), doxorubicin content in the arthritic joints of the doxorubicin liposome group (DOX-LIP group) was higher than in the free doxorubicin group (DOX group) (P<0.05). In the DOX-LIP group, doxorubicin levels in the arthritic joints increased gradually and significantly in the interval of 6-72 h post-administration. CONCLUSIONS PEGylated doxorubicin liposomes were targeted to, accumulated, and retained in the arthritic joints of CIA rats. The present study indicates that liposome encapsulation increases the therapeutic efficacy of antirheumatic drugs, presenting a promising therapeutic strategy for RA.