To date, the significance of early intervention with methotrexate and biological disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has not been realized. Longitudinal safety and cost have arisen as new concerns. The concept of a treatment holiday, drug discontinuation after achieving remission, may solve these problems. The authors performed a systematic literature review and identified 13 reports from 10 studies (TNF20, BeSt, OPITMA, HIT-HARD, IMPROVED, PRIZE, IDEA, EMPIRE, tREACH and AVERT) for early RA (≤2 years). Eight out of 13 reports (61.5%) were published in 2013 or 2014, indicating emerging interest in recent years. Also, the authors performed a sub-analysis of the HONOR study (n = 51) to compare early (≤2 years) and established RA. The proportions of remission (REM) and low disease activity were higher in early RA (REM: 63.0 vs 33.3%, p = 0.0346; low disease activity: 77.8 vs 45.8%, p = 0.0185). In conclusion, early intervention is beneficial for successful treatment holiday, which may lead to risk and cost reduction. However, further investigation is required.