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EULAR straddles the data-opinion gap on hip OA.

New recommendations from the European League Against Rheumatism on the management of hip osteoarthritis come from two camps--the best available research evidence, and expert opinion/current practice--and these camps are not always in agreement.

Discordances between expert opinion and the literature demonstrate the need for more clinical trial data specifically on hip osteoarthritis (OA) and make EULAR's 10 treatment recommendations truly an "open recommendation set" that should provide a frame of reference for physicians, said Maxime Dougados, M.D., who led the multidisciplinary task force that wrote the recommendations.

"We provide 10 take-home messages, but without providing any strict guidelines or a treatment algorithm," said Dr. Dougados, chief of rheumatology at the Hospital Cochin in Paris. Total hip replacement is not supported by strong research evidence, for instance, but "nevertheless, all the experts consider it of clinical benefit."

In their report, he and his colleagues note that "more clinical trial data specific to hip OA are required, especially because some interventions appear to show different efficacy according to the joint site" (Ann. Rheum. Dis. 2005:64;669-81).

Still, despite shortcomings in research, the recommendations are useful and "eminently reasonable," said Marc C. Hochberg, M.D. He helped develop the American College of Rheumatology's recommendations for managing OA of the hip and knee, published in 2000.

The new EULAR recommendations, each of which includes an analysis of effectiveness and cost-effectiveness, indicate that optimal management of hip OA should be individually tailored; that it requires a combination of nonpharmacologic and pharmacologic treatment modalities; and that nonpharmacologic treatment should include education, exercise, devices such as insoles, and weight reduction if necessary.

The experts were asked to assess separately the strength of each intervention based on research evidence and clinical expertise. Of the 21 interventions reviewed in the new recommendations, 15 were positively supported by evidence of various grades. But only 15% of the hip OA studies were randomized controlled trials.

Here's a look at some of the recommendations by the EULAR task force:

* Acetaminophen is the oral analgesic of first choice for mild to moderate pain, and if successful, if the preferred long-term oral analgesic.

* NSAIDs should be added or substituted, at the lowest effective dose, in patients who respond inadequately to paracetamol. In patients with increased gastrointestinal risk, nonselective NSAIDs, plus a gastroprotective agent, or a selective cyclo-oxygenase-2 inhibitor, should be used.

* Opioid analgesics, with or without acetaminophen, are useful alternatives in patients in whom NSAIDs (including coxibs) are contraindicated, ineffective, and/or poorly tolerated.

* Joint replacement must be considered in patients who have radiographic evidence of hip OA along with refractory pain and disability.

* Osteotomy and joint preserving surgical procedures should be considered in young adults with symptomatic hip OA, especially if they have dysplasia or varus/valgus deformity.

* Diacerhein and avocado soybean unsaponifiable (ASU) were found to "have a symptomatic effect and low toxicity." But their "effect sizes are small, suitable patients are not well defined, and structure-modifying effects are not well established," according to the recommendations. In any case, such guidance has limited applicability in the United States, given the lack of availability of these two compounds, noted Dr. Hochberg, head of rheumatology and clinical immunology at the University of Maryland.

Three interventions--acetaminophen, glucosamine, and exercise--had no direct, hip-specific evidence to support their use, and another three interventions--ASU, diacerhein, and intraarticular steroid injection--had either evidence showing no symptomatic benefit or inconclusive evidence. Still, based on clinical experience, these treatments were deemed effective and have been recommended for knee OA.

"There may be true treatment differences for OA according to the site affected," wrote the task force members, who had excluded from the literature review most of the studies that combined hip and knee OA.

Acetaminophen--one of the three interventions with no direct efficacy data--received a relatively high mean "strength of recommendation" rating (79%) based on clinical expertise, for instance.

Total hip replacement was similar: It received a low "strength of recommendation" rating based on research evidence (a C on an A-D scale), but a high rating (86%) based on clinical expertise.

Opioids, on the other hand, received an A on an A-D scale, based on research evidence but a low rating (44%) based on clinical expertise. NSAIDs were rated highly with respect both to research evidence of efficacy (A) and to clinical expertise (80%).

"It's clear now that NSAIDs might have a controversial toxicity," said Dr. Dougados in an interview. "But these drugs are very powerful and very efficient. I think prescriptions will continue but with more emphasis on decreasing dose and duration."

With regard to total hip replacement, "it's clear it's efficient," he said. "But the question is, what is the optimal time? We [need to] answer the question of when exactly to recommend and perform THR."

The task force of the EULAR committee on clinical studies which wrote the recommendations, comprised 23 experts, including 18 rheumatologists, representing 14 European countries.

EULAR recommendations on managing knee osteoarthritis were published in 2003.

BY CHRISTINE KILGORE

Contributing Writer
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Title Annotation:Rheumatology
Author:Kilgore, Christine
Publication:Internal Medicine News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 15, 2005
Words:828
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