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Arthritis alert.

Glucosamine and chondroitin, two supplements widely used to treat arthritis, appear to help, but only in people with moderate-to-severe knee pain.

A new government-sponsored study randomly assigned more than 1,580 men and women with arthritis in their knees to take a daily dose of glucosamine (1,500 mg), chondroitin (1,200 mg), both, the prescription anti-inflammatory drug Celebrex (200 mg), or a placebo. Roughly four in five started the study with mild pain, while the rest had moderate-to-severe pain.

After six months, roughly 60 percent of the placebo takers reported at least a 20 percent drop in pain. (Not bad for a placebo!) That wasn't significantly different from most of the other treatments. Roughly 65 percent of patients taking glucosamine, chondroitin, or both reported the same reduction in pain.

Only Celebrex, which led to pain relief in 70 percent of the patients, was significantly different from the placebo. (Unfortunately, other studies have found that Celebrex doubles the risk of a heart attack.)

However, when scientists looked only at people with moderate-to-severe knee pain, 79 percent of those taking glucosamine plus chondroitin reported pain relief. That was significantly higher than the 54 percent of placebo takers who reported relief. No other treatments worked, though Celebrex was close, with 69 percent reporting pain relief.

What to do: The researchers will know more after analyzing X-rays of the patients' knees. In the meantime, it's worth trying glucosamine plus chondroitin if your arthritis pain is worse than mild. Other studies indicate that the glucosamine sulfate that's found in most supplements works better than the glucosamine hydrochloride that was used in this study.

New England Journal of Medicine 354: 795, 2006.
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Title Annotation:QUICK STUDIES
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Article Type:Brief article
Date:Apr 1, 2006
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