Send to

Choose Destination
Lancet. 1999 Jan 23;353(9149):259-66.

Efficacy and safety of leflunomide compared with placebo and sulphasalazine in active rheumatoid arthritis: a double-blind, randomised, multicentre trial. European Leflunomide Study Group.

Author information

Department of Internal Medicine III, University of Vienna, and Centre for Rheumatic Diseases, Lainz Hospital, Austria.



Phase II trials of leflunomide, an inhibitor of de-novo pyrimidine synthesis, have shown efficacy in rheumatoid arthritis. This double-blind randomised trial compared leflunomide with placebo and sulphasalazine in active rheumatoid arthritis.


358 patients were randomly assigned leflunomide (100 mg daily on days 1-3, then 20 mg daily), placebo, or sulphasalazine (0.5 g daily, titrated progressively to 2.0 g daily at week 4). The primary endpoints were tender and swollen joint counts and investigator's and patient's overall assessments. Analyses were by intention to treat.


The mean changes in the leflunomide, placebo, and sulphasalazine groups were -9.7, -4.3, and -8.1 for tender joint count; -7.2, -3.4, and -6.2 for swollen joint count; -1.1, -0.3, and -1.0 for physician's overall assessment; and -1.1, -0.4, and -1.1 for patient's overall assessment. Leflunomide and sulphasalazine were significantly superior to placebo (p=0.0001 for joint counts; p<0.001 for assessments). Radiographic disease progression was significantly slower with leflunomide and sulphasalazine than with placebo (p<0.01). Most common adverse events with leflunomide were diarrhoea (17%), nausea (10%), alopecia (8%), and rash (10%). Transiently abnormal liver function was seen in three leflunomide-group patients and five sulphasalazine-group patients. There were two cases of reversible agranulocytosis in the sulphasalazine group.


Leflunomide was more effective than placebo in treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and showed similar efficacy to sulphasalazine. Leflunomide was well tolerated. This drug may be a useful option as a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center