Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug induced small intestinal inflammation may have an adverse effect on the joints of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. We therefore assessed small intestinal and joint inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis before and after three to nine months' treatment with sulphasalazine (n = 40) and other second line drugs (n = 20), while keeping the dosage of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug at the same level. Sulphasalazine significantly decreased the mean (SD) faecal excretion of 111indium labelled leucocytes from 2.39 (2.22)% to 1.33 (1.13)% (normal less than 1%, p less than 0.01) and improved the joint inflammation as assessed by a variety of parameters. There was no significant correlation between the effects of sulphasalazine treatment on the intestine and the joints. Treatment with other second line drugs had no significant effect on the faecal excretion of 111indium (1.58 (1.04)% and 1.86 (1.51)%, respectively) but improved joint inflammation significantly. The lack of correlation between the intestinal and joint inflammation and their response to treatment suggests that the two are not causally related.
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