Review: Glucosamine, chondroitin, and osteoarthritis

Researchers in Europe reviewed the evidence for glucosamine, chondroitin, and the combination to treat osteoarthritis of the hip or knee.

First, the details.

  • 10 studies in 3803 patients were included.
  • Pain intensity was the main outcome measured.
  • In addition, any change in minimal width of joint space was reviewed.

And, the results.

  • The overall difference in pain intensity compared with placebo wasn’t significant for glucosamine, chondroitin, and the combination.
    • Industry independent studies showed significantly smaller effects than commercially funded studies.
  • The differences in changes in minimal width of joint space were all minute.

The bottom line?

The authors encourage insurers not to cover treatment.

It doesn’t appear that the researchers attempted to review the data for a specific group of patients — younger vs older, early vs advanced disease, etc.

It’s possible suggest researchers at the University of Utah that the 1 problem with negative studies in the field of osteoarthritis is poor study design — the population being studied is too diverse.

A more narrowly targeted population of patients might be needed in order to show benefit. For example, benefit with chondroitin appears to be limited to people with milder pain and less severe osteoarthritis of the knee.

A rebuttal from the natural foods industry is here.

9/17/10 22:13 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 www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.