Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) significantly impacts the health of Chinese patients. Conventional synthetic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (csDMARDs) are used as the standard treatment for patients with RA. However, Chinese patients with RA have reported poor compliance with csDMARDs. This study aims to better understand the safety and compliance of using csDMARDs in RA treatment. Face-to-face interviews were conducted by questionnaires on safety and compliance of csDMARDs in 400 patients with RA and 100 rheumatologists from 13 cities in China. Rheumatologists were from Tier 3 Class A hospitals with independent rheumatology departments, who admitted more than 30 patients with RA per week. All patients were diagnosed for > 3 months before the survey and had been treated with csDMARDs for > 3 months. The incidence of adverse events (AEs) that attributed to csDMARDs estimated by rheumatologists was lower than that reported by patients for all four prescribed csDMARDs. Also, types of common AEs in rheumatologist's perception differed from those in the patient's report. Only 86% (116/135) of patients claimed they notified their rheumatologist about AEs, and 40.8% (150/368) of patients did not strictly adhere to their prescribed treatment. Reasons why patients were not compliant with their treatment, other than AEs, included symptoms being less severe, travel, and busy working life/business trips. This study revealed gaps in perceptions of csDMARDs-related AEs and medication adherence between rheumatologists and patients. These findings suggested adequate doctor-patient communications, and considerations of multiple real-world situations may improve adherence in the treatment of RA patients. Key Points • This study identified gaps in rheumatologists' perception of the prevalence and type of AEs experienced by their patients, which could potentially help them improve their patients' compliance with treatment.