OBJECTIVE: To assess the association of adherence to the 2007 recommendations of the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) for managing early arthritis and radiographic progression and disability in patients METHODS: The authors conducted a prospective population-based cohort study. The ESPOIR cohort was a French cohort of 813 patients with early arthritis not receiving disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). Adherence to the 2007 EULAR recommendations was defined by measuring adherence to three of the recommendations concerning the initiation and early adjustment of DMARDs. The study endpoints were radiographic progression, defined as the presence of at least one new erosion between baseline and 1 year, and disability as a heath assessment questionnaire score ≥1 at 2 years. A propensity score of being treated according to the recommendations was developed. RESULTS: After adjustment for propensity score, treatment centre and the main confounding factors, patients without recommendation adherence were at increased risk of radiographic progression at 1 year, and of functional impairment at 2 years (OR 1.98, (95% CI: 1.08 to 3.62 and OR: 2.36, (95% CI: 1.17 to 4.67), respectively). CONCLUSIONS: Early arthritis patients whose treatment adhered to the 2007 EULAR recommendations seemed to benefit from such treatment in terms of risk of clinical and radiographic progression. Using a propensity score of being treated according to recommendations in observational studies may be useful in assessing the potential impact of these recommendations on outcome.