Glucosamine: No Help for Hip Arthritis?
Dutch Study Shows Popular Supplement No Better Than Placebo; Industry Disagrees
WebMD News Archive
Feb. 18, 2008 -- The popular supplement glucosamine, used by many arthritis sufferers, was found to be no better than
placebo pills for relieving the pain
of hip osteoarthritis or increasing the ability to do everyday
activities, according to a new study from the Netherlands.
"In our study, there was not much room for doubt," says Rianne
Rozendaal, MSc, the study's lead researcher.
"The differences between the glucosamine and placebo group were all very
small," says Rozendaal, a researcher at the Erasmus Medical Center
in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
But representatives of the supplement industry disagree, with one
manufacturer saying the researchers may have focused on people too early in the
Glucosamine and Arthritis
An estimated 21 million Americans have osteoarthritis (or
"wear-and-tear" arthritis) affecting the hips, knees, and other joints,
according to the Arthritis Foundation. The condition is marked by the breakdown
of the joint's cartilage, which cushions the bone endings and allows you to
A substance found naturally in healthy joint cartilage, glucosamine
stimulates the formation and repair of cartilage, according to the American
Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, but over-the-counter supplements come from animal or plant sources. Studies
of the effectiveness of glucosamine have yielded mixed findings.
Study Details: Glucosamine and Arthritis
Rozendaal and her team assigned 222 patients, all with hip osteoarthritis
that was generally termed mild, to take either 1,500 milligrams of glucosamine
sulfate or a placebo pill every day for two years. On average, patients were in
their early 60s.
About equal numbers in each group underwent total hip replacement surgery
during the study. The researchers evaluated the patients at three, 12, and 24
months after they began the treatments, collecting information about the
patients' pain levels and how well they could perform everyday activities.
X-rays were taken to measure the joint space in the hip. As osteoarthritis
gets worse, this joint space gets narrower.
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