482 Chondroitin effective for osteoarthritis

August 22, 2016

written by Brian R McAvoy

Clinical Question
How effective is chondroitin for treating osteoarthritis (OA) compared to placebo, active controls or herbal medications?

Bottom Line
Chondroitin (alone or in combination with glucosamine) was better than placebo in improving pain in participants with OA in short-term studies (< six months). The benefit was small to moderate, with an eight point greater improvement in pain (range 0 to 100; NNT* 5) and a two point greater improvement in Lequesne Index, a combination of pain, physical function and disability (range 0 to 24), both seeming clinically meaningful. Chondroitin had a lower risk of serious adverse events compared with control. There was also a statistically significant lesser reduction in minimal joint space width with chondroitin compared to placebo, based on moderate to high quality evidence.
*NNT = number needed to treat to benefit one individual.

The majority were studies of knee OA (a few hand, one hip) ranging from one month to three years. Several studies were funded by makers of chondroitin.


OA is common, and is one of the leading causes of disability. Chondroitin has emerged as a new treatment, and is popular among patients as an over-the-counter supplement.

Cochrane Systematic Review
Singh JA et al. Chondroitin for osteoarthritis. Cochrane Reviews, 2015, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD005614.DOI: 10.1002/14651858. CD005614.pub2. This review contains 43 studies involving 9,110 participants.

Pearls are an independent product of the Cochrane primary care group and are meant for educational use and not to guide clinical care.