21 February 2008

Latest Study Says Glucosamine Does Not Work For Hip Osteoarthritis


I'm sure many local folk have seen this TV advert of an old man screaming in pain because of his osteoarthritic woes, and then after taking a food supplement containing glucosamine, emerges running, working, and exclaiming loudly to the world, "Ang lakas ko! Ang lakas ko!" ["I'm so strong! I'm so strong!"] The implied message is that glucosamine works to relieve osteoarthritic pain.

Before being swept with this seemingly awesome promotional enthusiasm, it would be prudent to know that for years, clinical studies about glucosamine's efficacy for osteoarthritic treatment have been conflicting.

Favorable studies, done mostly by its European patent-holder, have shown benefits like symptom relief and X-ray-verified improvement in joint-space narrowing. But a large study done by the US National Institutes of Health and published in the NEJM in 2006 has shown that "glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate alone or in combination did not reduce pain effectively in the overall group of patients with osteoarthritis of the knee." There were more than 1,500 patients with osteoarthritic pain of knee enrolled in that study.

The latest study, published in the February 19 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, concluded that "glucosamine sulfate was no better than placebo in reducing symptoms and progression of hip osteoarthritis."

The glucosamine being advertised above by the old man sells for Php 17.00 each, and Php 1,700.00 for a box of 100. No senior citizen discounts apply because it is not classified as a true medicine and falls under the category of food supplements. Roughly, that's about US$ 0.42 cents and US$ 41.80 respectively, using current forex rates.

Now, why would our suffering senior citizens shell out their hard-earned money for treatment that has no solid scientific and clinical basis? It is "no better than placebo," as one study said.

7 reactions:

Jet said...

Try telling that to my Mom. She believes in glucosamine. Although lately, she says it's not working as effectively and she attributes it to the fact that she only takes it when she's in pain. When I told her that maybe she has to take it continuously, ang sagot sa akin, 'E di ba mahal siya?'

Kaya I just sent her several bottles just so she doesn't have to deal with the cost of buying it each time. Placebo or not, my theory is this... these conditions are chronic and more often than not, nothing will actually help. Sometimes a large part of it depends on what they believe works for them to ease their pain.

My father, for the longest time, believed that aspirin was the answer to everything. It was no big thing for him to pop 2 or 3 at a time. Now he's 80 yrs. old... no stroke, no heart condition and thank God, no GI bleeding to date.

Dr. Emer said...

That's essentially what the placebo effect is, Jet. It is based mainly on the belief of getting well.

Meanwhile, aspirin is a different story. There are studies showing its efficacy in preventing stroke and heart attack. Whether your Dad believes it works or not, doesn't matter. No placebo effect there. It really works!

bingskee said...

thank you for this information.

ipanema said...

i wonder if these advertising agencies consult anyone from the PMA to verify the claims of producers before marketing this product. This would prevent people from swallowing flour for all we know, and waste money.

bayi said...

What then, in your opinion, is the best supplement for osteoarthritis? Will calcium pills help?

Dr. Emer said...

IPANEMA - it is BFAD's duty to see if the health claims are true or not

BAYI - since the studies are conflicting, you can still opt to take glucosamine for osteoarthritis. Re: calcium pills, be sure to have your daily dose of healthy sunshine to make them work.

Anonymous said...

Hi, im Dave, and i would like to comment on the article that was posted.

It is true that Glucosamine has no effect in reducing pain.

That is because Glucosamine is not a pain killer. What glucosamine does is trigger the body to PRODUCE THE LUBRICANT IN THE JOINTS THAT HAVE OTHERWISE DRIED UP DUE TO OSTEOARTHRITIS.

So if youre looking for something to ease your osteoarthritis pains, glucosamine isnt what youre looking for. But if you want to stop your osteoarthritis taking glucosamine for maybe a month or two would definitely show signs of improvement. And yes, the pain will stop too becaus the joints will be better lubricated and wont be grinding against each other too much.

I hate reading articles like this, its so misleading. It makes it seem that glucosamine is worthless by having a catchy line like " GLucosamine doesnt help with pain" This was probably written by the pharma companies who want you to keep taking their expensive drugs, or at least by written by a doctor on their payroll.

To jet: about your mom, the reason why your mom is not experiencing expected results is because Arthro only contains about 250mg of glucosamine. according to research you need about 1500mg daily. Try it and see if it works.

For God's sake people dont take my word for it, but please do some research before swallowing crap from anybody and learn to read between the lines. All the info is on the net, all you have to do is look