Omega-3 Fatty AcidsRheumatoid Diseases

Effect of omega-3 on NSAID treatment of rheumatoid arthritis

Researchers from Osmani Medical College, in Bangladesh report that taking omega-3 reduced the need for taking the granddaddy of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

First, the details.

  • 100 patients with active rheumatoid arthritis were assigned to a treatment group for 12 weeks.
    • Indomethacin (Indocin) 75 mg daily
    • Indomethacin 75 mg + omega-3 fatty acids 3 grams daily
  • The main outcome measures were DAS 2-28 (a measure of disease activity), number of swollen joints, number of tender joints, duration of morning stiffness, grip strength, pain, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and C-reactive protein (both are measures of inflammation in the body).

And, the results.

  • Both groups experienced a modest improvement in disease activity after 12 weeks of treatment.
  • Compared to indomethacin alone, taking omega-3 + indomethacin were associated with greater improvement in disease activity.
  • Physical functioning, physical role, bodily pain, general health, vitality, social functioning, grip strength, duration of morning stiffness improved significantly better with omega-3 + indomethacin compared to indomethacin only.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation with indomethacin might ameliorate disease activity and be NSAID sparing in rheumatoid arthritis.”

More than a decade ago, a review of studies by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, Massachusetts concluded that dietary fish oil supplementation for 3 months significantly reduced tender joint count and morning stiffness compared with dietary control oils.

This study suggests that taking 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids supplements each day might reduce the need of indomethacin therapy. It would be interesting to see the effect of omega-3 on the use of drugs more commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis in the US, such as those listed here.

2/4/10 20:14 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.