Supplements to ease pain of arthritis 'do not work'

Two supplements taken by millions of people for joint pain caused by arthritis do not work, according to research.

The supplements, glucosamine and chondroitin, are widely sold in health shops and have increasingly been prescribed by GPs and rheumatologosts in the last decade.

They are taken on their own or in combination to reduce the pain caused by arthritis in the hips and knees. In 2008 the global market for glucosamine alone was estimated at £1.3bn.

But analysis of results from 10 trials of the supplements involving over 3,800 patients with knee and hip osteoarthritis found they were no better than a placebo at relieving pain.

Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition of the hip or knee which can cause severe long-lasting pain. The main treatment is painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the swelling in the joints.

However the drugs cause stomach and heart problems in some people, especially if used long term. There is an urgent need for treatments that slow the disease and relieve pain, the researchers say.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, Professor Peter Juni and colleagues at the University of Bern, Switzerland, say conflicting results from trials about the effectiveness of the two supplements led them to carry out the review. They found no clinically relevant effect either on joint pain or on joint space narrowing – a measure of the damage caused by osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the UK, affecting an estimated 8.5 million people. It is thought to be caused by mechanical failure of the cartilage that separates and cushions the joints.

The other main type, rheumatoid arthritis, is caused by inflammation of the lining of the joints and the sheaths around the tendons.

Professor Juni and colleagues say that in the absence of any evidence that the supplements work, they should not be paid for by health services.

"Health authorities and health insurers should not cover the costs for these preparations, and new prescriptions to patients who have not received treatment should be discouraged."

Some patients find the supplements beneficial but the authors suggest this is either because of the placebo effect, or due to the natural course of the illness.

They conclude: "We are confident that neither of the preparations is dangerous. 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."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Content Manager - Central London

    £35000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Content Manager - Central...

    HR Business Partner - Banking Finance - Brentwood - £45K

    £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: ** HR Business Partner - Senior H...

    PA / Team Secretary - Wimbledon

    £28000 - £32000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: PA / Team Secretary - Mat...

    Mechanical Lead

    £65000 - £75000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Mechanical L...

    Day In a Page

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on