To compare the efficacy and safety of adalimumab plus methotrexate (MTX) versus MTX monotherapy or adalimumab monotherapy in patients with early, aggressive rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who had not previously received MTX treatment. This was a 2-year, multicenter, double-blind, active comparator-controlled study of 799 RA patients with active disease of < 3 years' duration who had never been treated with MTX. Treatments included adalimumab 40 mg subcutaneously every other week plus oral MTX, adalimumab 40 mg subcutaneously every other week, or weekly oral MTX. Co-primary end points at year 1 were American College of Rheumatology 50% improvement (ACR50) and mean change from baseline in the modified total Sharp score. Combination therapy was superior to both MTX and adalimumab monotherapy in all outcomes measured. At year 1, more patients receiving combination therapy exhibited an ACR50 response (62%) than did patients who received MTX or adalimumab monotherapy (46% and 41%, respectively; both P < 0.001). Similar superiority of combination therapy was seen in ACR20, ACR70, and ACR90 response rates at 1 and 2 years. There was significantly less radiographic progression (P < or = 0.002) among patients in the combination treatment arm at both year 1 and year 2 (1.3 and 1.9 Sharp units, respectively) than in patients in the MTX arm (5.7 and 10.4 Sharp units) or the adalimumab arm (3.0 and 5.5 Sharp units). After 2 years of treatment, 49% of patients receiving combination therapy exhibited disease remission (28-joint Disease Activity Score <2.6), and 49% exhibited a major clinical response (ACR70 response for at least 6 continuous months), rates approximately twice those found among patients receiving either monotherapy. The adverse event profiles were comparable in all 3 groups. In this population of patients with early, aggressive RA, combination therapy with adalimumab plus MTX was significantly superior to either MTX alone or adalimumab alone in improving signs and symptoms of disease, inhibiting radiographic progression, and effecting clinical remission.