Glucosamine: No Help for Hip Arthritis?
Dutch Study Shows Popular Supplement No Better Than Placebo; Industry Disagrees
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Glucosamine and Arthritis: No Hip Help
At the study's end, the pain scores of those who took the supplement didn't
differ much from those who took the placebo, Rozendaal says. On the scale used,
"the pain scores range from 0 to 100," she explains in an email
interview, "where 0 equals no pain and 100 equals [the] most severe
The average difference between groups in pain scores was a decline of just
1.5 points, she says. To be statistically significant, there would have to have
been a difference of at least 10 points, she says.
"Our trial does not suggest an effect of glucosamine for hip
osteoarthritis," she adds.
No differences were found between groups in the joint space narrowing,
either, Rozendaal says. The study is published in the Annals of Internal
Another View: Jury Is Out
In an editorial accompanying the study, authors from another Dutch medical
center note that "the study is indeed negative" but caution that the
results apply only to hip osteoarthritis. They conclude that the role of
glucosamine in arthritis treatment is still under debate.
They also note that when the authors looked at a subset of people with
osteoarthritis in other parts of their bodies, they found a small trend toward
pain reduction and improved functioning, but the change wasn't significant.
A better group of patients to study would have been those with more severe
arthritis because the disease progresses more rapidly then, and it might have
been easier to see any effect of the supplement, wrote Johannes W.J. Bijlsma,
MD, PhD, and Floris P.J.G. Lafeber, PhD, of the University Medical Center
"What they did was study people too early in the arthritic process,"
agrees Luke Bucci, PhD, vice president of research at Schiff Nutrition
International in Salt Lake City, which makes a glucosamine supplement.
He says that "they were starting to see some small advantages for the
A Clinician's View
The study findings don't surprise Jay Mabrey, MD, chief of orthopedics at
Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. Nor does he expect this study to be
the last word on the supplement.
"There are people who really believe in this and I am sure they will
proceed with their own studies," Mabrey says.
His advice about its use? "I don't discourage it, and that's different
from encouraging [its use]," he says. "It seems about half my patients
[who use the supplement] report some type of relief, but that could very well
be placebo effect." When patients ask, he tells them: "So far the
studies don't show any definite advantage." But "as far as we
know," it doesn't appear to do harm, he says.