At present, growing scientific evidence from the medical literature and expert opinion provides strong consideration for a mandatory role of glucocorticoids (GCs) in the management of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Earlier application strategies were based on initial high doses, with subsequent tapering schedules, resulting in dose-related side effects. Recent low-dose GC schemes are more feasible in routine care, while providing evidence of clinical, functional and structural efficacy. Thus, initial low-dose GC 'bridging' treatment on a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug background should be included in any existing recommendations for RA management, as very recently advocated by the EULAR Task Force 2013 updated guidelines. Long-term low-dose therapy appears to provide acceptable safety, leading to long-standing slowing of structural damage, seen even after GC therapy withdrawal. Gaps in knowledge about the optimal method to taper and possibly discontinue GC treatment remain, and this topic should be addressed in clinical trials and observational studies. Recent efforts in GC medication have also included the introduction of a modified-release drug formulation capable of drug delivery consistent with chronobiological pathogenetic rhythms of disease, which has been quite efficacious in controlling the signs and symptoms related to pathways of circadian cytokines. Long-term data will further clarify the add-on benefits of such modified-release formulations.
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