Arthritis treatments glucosamine and chondroitin shown to be no better than placebo

According to the latest research, the popular supplements glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, used to fight arthritis and joint pain, do not seem to work any better than a placebo in slowing the loss of knee cartilage in osteoarthritis.

The researchers from the University of Utah's School of Medicine who led the study say though some of their findings were confusing and more research was needed, after two years, there was no important reduction in joint space width loss.

The multicenter study which was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, supports other research which has shown the supplements have few or no effects.

A trial in 2006 - the glucosamine/chondroitin arthritis intervention trial or GAIT- found the supplements did not reduce the pain of knee arthritis, except among a small group of patients with moderate to severe pain.

Rheumatologist Dr. Allen Sawitzke and his colleagues say they had trouble interpreting their results because patients who took placebos had a smaller loss of cartilage than they should have.

The researchers however continued to watch 572 volunteers for another 18 months and found the supplements - 500 mg of glucosamine three times a day; or 400 mg of chondroitin sulfate three times a day; or a combination of the two supplements; or 200 mg of celecoxib daily; or a placebo - did not appear to slow the loss of cartilage, taken either alone or together and what is more they found the arthritis worsened in 24% of participants taking both - which was similar to those taking placebo.

Dr. Stephen Katz, director of the NIH's National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases says research continues to reveal that osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, appears to be the result of an array of factors including age, gender, genetics, obesity and joint injuries.

Dr. Katz says because osteoarthritis affects nearly 21 million Americans, ways to not only treat pain, but also address the structural effects of the condition are being searched for.

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