Chondroitin sulfate as good as widely used anti-inflammatory drug for knee osteoarthritis: Study

By Gary Scattergood contact

- Last updated on GMT

Osteoarthritis is usually treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). ©iStock
Osteoarthritis is usually treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). ©iStock
High quality chondroitin sulfate supplementation is as good as a widely prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug for the treatment of painful knee osteoarthritis, new research reveals.

Academics say 800mg of “pharmaceutical grade”​ chondroitin sulfate can be safely and effectively used for long term treatment, particularly for older people.

Osteoarthritis is usually treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and paracetamol.  

In a study published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases​ and sponsored by chondroitin sulfate manufacturer IBSA Institut Biochimique SA, researchers explained they conducted a trial in which 604 patients symptomatic knee osteoarthritis were randomly assigned to one of three daily treatments and then monitored for six months.

In one group, 199 patients were given one 800 mg tablet of chondroitin sulfate and one 200g tablet of a fake version of the anti-inflammatory drug fake celecoxib (named celebrex). In the second group 200 patients were given one dummy chondroitin sulfate tablet and one capsule of celecoxib. In the third group 205 patients were given two dummy tablets.

Significant improvement

Pain, joint function, and overall acceptability to the patient were assessed using validated scoring systems on days 30, 91, and 182.

Reductions in pain and improvements in joint function were significantly greater after six and three months, respectively, in patients treated with either chondroitin sulfate or celecoxib.

Joint function improved more quickly in patients taking celecoxib, but there were no overall differences in the effectiveness of either active treatment, which were highly rated by patients.

“This compelling benefit-risk profile, in light of the known clinical risks associated with chronic usage of NSAIDS and paracetamol, underscores the potential importance of pharmaceutical-grade [chondroitin sulfate] in the management of knee [osteoarthritis], especially in the older population requiring long-term treatment,”​ wrote the Belgian researchers.

Dietary supplements

They concluded that a daily dose of 800 mg of pharmaceutical-grade chondroitin sulfate was better than a dummy product and as good as celecoxib in reducing pain and improving joint function in symptomatic knee osteoarthritis.

It is a formulation that should be considered first for the treatment of the condition, they add.

There are a raft of supplements containing chondroitin sulfate available over the counter with joint health claims, but researchers stressed those used in the study was of pharmaceutical grade and that the level of active ingredient in dietary supplements varies considerably. 

“Chondroitin sulfate is available as pharmaceutical-grade and nutraceutical-grade products, the latter exhibiting striking variations in preparation, composition, purity as well as clinical effects,”​ adds the paper.

Source: Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

"Pharmaceutical-grade Chondroitin sulfate is as effective as celecoxib and superior to placebo in symptomatic knee osteoarthritis: the Chondroitin versus celecoxib versus Placebo Trial (CONCEPT)"

Authors: Jean-Yves Reginster, et al.

Related topics: Research

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