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Jury Still Out on Use of Supplements to Treat Arthritis


The good news for consumers is that at least one such study has already been initiated. In September 1999, the National Institutes of Health funded a study to investigate the efficacy and safety of glucosamine and chondroitin for the treatment of OA in the knee. Researchers are expected to begin recruiting patients for the 16-week study later this year.

In the meantime, what is a patient who suffers from the side effects of prescription anti-inflammatory drugs to do?

"I recommend that they take [the supplements] for a minimum of 12 weeks to see if they're going to have a therapeutic effect," says Marc Hochberg, MD, MPH, a professor and chairman of rheumatology at the University of Maryland.

But then there still is that potential downside. Because dietary supplements are not regulated to the same degree as prescription drugs, "when you go into the store, you're not sure what you're getting," Hochberg says.

Vital Information:

  • Supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin may be beneficial in treating osteoarthritis, although previous studies sponsored by manufacturers may have overstated their efficacy.
  • Researchers are still uncertain about the side effects of these supplements or how they compare to approved prescription medications.
  • Osteoarthritis patients who suffer side effects from their medication can try glucosamine and chondroitin for a minimum of 12 weeks to determine whether the supplements work for them, one expert says.
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