Alternative Relief for Arthritis?
Most Promising Study Yet
By Mary Harris
B O S T O N, The newest hope for people with a common form of
not a drug, but an over-the-counter nutritional supplement.
It's a new alternative
for osteoarthritis - cheaper than
prescription therapy, available over the counter, and almost devoid
effects, according to research made public today at the American
Rheumatology's annual scientific sessions in Boston.
The therapy involves a
nutritional supplement called
it is being studied on osteoarthritis, the gradual deterioration of
cartilage that cushions bones in the joints. Osteoarthritis accounts
about half of all arthritis cases, with symptoms including joint pain
concentrated in the knees and hips. If untreated, many osteoarthritis
patients eventually will face total joint replacement, or disability.
The research unveiled today
comes from the University of Liege in
Belgium. It involved an international team randomly assigning 212
with osteoarthritis of the knee to take either Glucosamine or a
daily for three years. Every four months, scientists surveyed the
to measure the pain and discomfort associated with their
Researchers also took regular knee X-rays to monitor the disease's
The results show that while
patients in the placebo group
symptoms worsen slightly, including joint narrowing, the patients
Glucosamine improved, and their joints did not narrow.
More Studies to Follow
Glucosamine therapy for arthritis has drawn so much interest that
major studies are under way, including one at the University of Utah,
received a $6.6 million grant in September from the National
Health. But the research presented today is one of the first long-term
studies of Glucosamine use for arthritis; most previous research has
followed patients for no more than a few months.
In addition, while most
osteoarthritis research focuses on
symptoms and pain, this is one of the first studies to demonstrate how
Glucosamine works-by keeping the joints from narrowing.
"This news affects a great
number of patients," says Dr. Daniel
the University of Utah professor of medicine directing the clinical
funded by the new NIH grant. "It would be very intriguing to have a
supplement that affects not only the pain [of osteoarthritis] but
the course of the disease."
Glucosamine is a natural
substance found in and around the cells
cartilage. Researchers hypothesize that it may help repair and
cartilage, inhibit inflammation, and stimulate growth of cartilage
They also emphasize that
these preliminary results are
encouraging, further research is needed, on larger groups.
Mary Harris, based in Boston,
is a researcher for the ABC Medical Unit