Are glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate effective for osteoarthritis?

January 01, 0001

Are glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate effective for osteoarthritis?

Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate have been used to treat osteoarthritis, but recent studies question their usefulness. These European researchers performed a meta-analysis of existing trial to determine the efficacy of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, both alone and together, for pain and radiologic evidence of disease. Data from trials were combined with indirect evidence from other trials by using a Bayesian model that allowed the synthesis of multiple time points. They included randomised controlled trials involving more than 200 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip.

The researchers report: "10 trials in 3803 patients were included. On a 10 cm visual analogue scale the overall difference in pain intensity compared with placebo was -0.4 cm for glucosamine, -0.3 cm for chondroitin, and -0.5 cm for the combination. For none of the estimates did the 95% credible intervals cross the boundary of the minimal clinically important difference. Industry independent trials showed smaller effects than commercially funded trials. The differences in changes in minimal width of joint space were all minute, with 95% credible intervals overlapping zero."

The researchers concluded: "Compared with placebo, glucosamine, chondroitin, and their combination do not reduce joint pain or have an impact on narrowing of joint space. Health authorities and health insurers should not cover the costs of these preparations, and new prescriptions to patients who have not received treatment should be discouraged."

This meta-analysis provides further evidence that glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are not efficacious in the treatment of osteoarthritis.

For the full abstract, click here.

BMJ 341:c4675, 16 September 2010
© 2010 Wandel et al.
Effects of glucosamine, chondroitin, or placebo in patients with osteoarthritis of hip or knee: network meta-analysis. Simon Wandel, Peter Jüni, Britta Tendal, et al. Correspondence to P Jüni:

Category: M. Musculoskeletal. Keywords: glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, osteoarthritis, pain, radiological evidence, network meta-analysis, journal watch.
Synopsis edited by Dr Paul Schaefer, Toledo, Ohio. Posted on Global Family Doctor 8 October 2010

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