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Over 3500 patients with recent onset inflammatory polyarthritis (IP) have been recruited by the Norfolk Arthritis Register (NOAR) since 1990. Longitudinal data from this cohort have been used to examine the prevalence and predictors of remission, functional disability, radiological outcome, cardiovascular mortality and co-morbidity and the development of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Rheumatoid factor titre, high baseline C-reactive protein and high baseline HAQ score are all predictors of a poor outcome. There is a strong association between possession of the shared epitope and the development of erosions. Patients who satisfy the American College of Rheumatology criteria for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have a worse prognosis than those who do not. However, it appears that these patients are a poorly defined subset of all those with IP rather than having an entirely separate disease entity. New statistical techniques offer exciting possibilities for using longitudinal datasets such as NOAR to explore the long-term effects of treatment in IP and RA.