24 September 2010
The supplements glucosamine and chondroitin are no better than placebo (a look-alike or dummy medicine containing no active ingredient) at relieving hip or knee pain in people with osteoarthritis, a study has found (BMJ 2010; 341: c4675, online).
The meta-analysis of 10 randomised trials, including a total of 3803 patients, found there was little difference in the reported intensity of joint pain among those taking the supplements. (A meta-analysis is a statistical technique that summarises the results of other studies.)
The study rated pain on a scale from 0 to 10 and compared the ratings between groups taking supplements and those taking a placebo. The reduction in pain was less than half a point on the 10-point scale for all the supplements - glucosamine, chondroitin or a combination of the two. This difference would not be significant in practice.
“We believe it is unlikely that future trials will show a clinically relevant benefit of any of the evaluated preparations”, they said.
“We are confident that neither of the preparations is dangerous”, they added. “Therefore, we see no harm in having patients continue these preparations as long as they perceive a benefit and cover the costs of treatment themselves”.
In a statement, the Complementary Healthcare Council of Australia said there were “flaws” in the research as it contained trials comparing different types of glucosamine and chondroitin products.
Last Reviewed: 24 September 2010