Previous work has shown that the human platelet antigen (HPA) 1b polymorphism of platelet glycoprotein IIIa (GPIIIa) is implicated in the development of ischaemic vascular disease. HPA1b positive platelets have a lower threshold for activation and may exert a greater thrombotic tendency than those without the 1b allele. However, platelets heterozygous for the polymorphism are also more sensitive to aspirin than those homozygous for the 1b allele, which have a similar sensitivity to those without the 1b allele. A flow cytometric method has become available to identify this polymorphism. The aim of our study was to evaluate the use of this assay in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and to determine the incidence of the 1b allele in these patients. We also compared platelet aggregation and platelet/white blood cell interaction in patients with or without this polymorphism.