OBJECTIVE: To retrospectively compare the long-term clinical, functional, and cost outcomes for early RA patients (symptoms < 1 year) who did or did not achieve early remission in a treat-to-target strategy. METHOD: Five-year data of 471 patients included in the DREAM remission induction cohort were used. Patients were treated according to a pre-specified 28-joint Disease Activity Score (DAS28) remission driven step-up treatment strategy starting with methotrexate, addition of sulfasalazine, and exchange of sulfasalazine for biological medication in case of failure. Two- and 3-year healthcare costs were available for selected subsamples of patients only. RESULTS: DAS28 remission was achieved in 27.7%, 38.2%, and 51.6% of patients at 2, 3, and 6 months, respectively. Achieving DAS28 remission at 2, 3, or 6 months was consistently associated with significantly lower DAS28 and Health Assessment Questionnaire-Disability scores at 1, 3, and 5 years of follow-up (all P values < 0.02). Patients in remission at 2, 3, or 6 months also had significantly lower medication costs per patient over the first 2 and 3 years of treatment, mainly due to lower biologic use, but differences in total healthcare resource costs (hospital admissions plus consultations) were less pronounced. Mean total medication and total healthcare resource costs at 3 years were €1131 and €1757 for patients in remission at 6 months vs. €7533 (P < 0.01) and €2202 (P = 0.09) for those not in remission. CONCLUSION: Achieving early remission was associated with beneficial clinical outcomes for early RA patients and lower costs in the long term. Key Points • Previous studies in rheumatoid arthritis patients have demonstrated that early good response is associated with sustained remission and better long-term clinical outcomes. • This study extents these findings by examining the long-term benefits of achieving early remission on clinical, patient-reported, and economic outcomes in a real-world cohort of patients with very early rheumatoid arthritis treated according to treat-to-target principles. • The findings of this study clearly demonstrate that aiming for early remission in rheumatoid arthritis patients is beneficial in the long-term in terms of better clinical and functional outcomes and lower healthcare costs.