Arthritis supplement 'ineffective'11th February 2009
Glucosamine, an over-the-counter dietary supplement commonly taken by arthritis patients, may not be very effective, a review of the literature has found.
The substance is naturally produced in the body and distributed to connective tissues.
Though researchers have failed to verify its effectiveness as a remedy for arthritis symptoms, many arthritis sufferers use glucosamine in the hope of strengthening cartilage in joints damaged by arthritis.
But Steven Vlad said that there is still a lot of uncertainty about taking glucosamine as a dietary supplement.
In a recent study his team examined all of the results of 15 glucosamine trials.
Their study found that the formula glucosamine hydrochloride definitely did not help arthritis sufferers.
Trials involving glucosamine sulphate, on the other hand, showed a variety of results.
And anomalies in the wide-ranging results of the trials led Vlad to conclude that industry money from supplement companies could be biasing the results of some studies.
He said that numerous analyses have showed that industry funding is correlated with stronger findings and selective publication of positive results.
Another study was recently conducted as a follow-up to glucosamine trial.
The study also tested chondroitin sulphate, a complex carbohydrate that helps cartilage retain water, often taken in combination with glucosamine.
Arthritis sufferers were given either glucosamine, a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate, the anti-inflammatory drug celecoxib (Celebrex), or a placebo.
Patients' knees were x-rayed two years after the drugs had been prescribed.
Allen Sawitzke said that, in the end, the results of his study were inconclusive.
He said that it was an example of a null study, a study where there is no difference detected, though differences could still exist.
Meanwhile, Jason Theodosakis, author of the book, The Arthritis Cure, said the study was flawed, citing small sample sizes.
He also mentioned short durations and imprecise x-ray methodologies as possible flaws.
Theodosakis said that the Sawitzke study should not discourage people from taking glucosamine with chondroitin to treat arthritis.
Stephen Dahmer said it was sensible to try glucosamine for 60 days.
This may be a good solution for patients who are not able to tolerate nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen.
Vlad said that he would tell patients that glucosamine was safe and would not hurt them.
But he said the cost of the supplement was unlikely to be covered by health insurance companies.
Both glucosamine and chondroitin are derived from animal tissues.
Glucosamine is extracted from crab, lobster, or shrimp shells, and chondroitin sulphate comes from tracheas or shark cartilage.
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