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Glucosamine + chondroitin sulfate might be all that's kneeded for osteoarthritis

New trial results suggest chondroitin sulfate plus glucosamine are as effective in relieving the symptoms of osteoarthritis as celecoxib, but safer than NSAIDs.

Chondroitin sulfate plus glucosamine works just as well to ease the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis as anti-inflammatory drugs, according to study results published in the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the Western world, and the knee is the joint that gets hit with it most frequently. Osteoarthritis is expected to become the fourth leading cause of disability by 2020, write the study’s authors.

Because the non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) often used for arthritis can themselves cause serious gastrointestinal and cardiovascular effects, scientists have been hunting for alternatives for years.

The recently completed trial, called the MOVES trial (Multicentre Osteoarthritis InterVEntion trial with Sysadoa) was conducted in Europe among a group of 606 patients with primary knee osteoarthritis and moderate to severe pain who were recruited from 42 centers in Spain, Germany, France and Poland. A multidisciplinary team of investigators including rheumatologists, orthopaedists and primary care physicians participated. In the double-blind, randomized, multicenter, parallel group trial, patients were given pharmaceutical grade chondroitin sulfate (1200 mg/day) and glucosamine hydrochloride (1500 mg/ day) or 200 mg of celecoxib (an anti-inflammatory drug) daily for six months.

Researchers found the supplement combo worked just as well as the pharmaceutical, but with a greater safety profile. The authors wrote that it “provides robust data to demonstrate the long-term efficacy and safety of chondroitin sulfate plus glucosamine in the management of these patients, and suggests that this combination may, in addition, offer an alternative, especially for individuals with cardiovascular or gastrointestinal conditions who have contraindications for treatment with NSAIDs.”

Specifically, after six months on the supplements, patients experienced 50 percent less pain, 45.5 percent less functional disability, 46.9 percent less stiffness, 53 percent less swelling and 56 percent less joint effusion (the abnormal buildup of joint fluid).

The MOVES trial results confirm the results of the 2006 GAIT (Glucosamine/chon- droitin Arthritis Intervention Trial) study, which found the supplement combo superior to a placebo in treating patients with moderate to severe osteoarthritis pain.

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