Published online Jan 18, 2017. doi: 10.5312/wjo.v8.i1.1
Peer-review started: July 26, 2016
First decision: September 6, 2016
Revised: September 19, 2016
Accepted: October 17, 2016
Article in press: October 18, 2016
Published online: January 18, 2017
The prevalence of primary or idiopathic osteoarthritis (OA) of knee and hip joints has substantially increased in general population during the last decades. Analgesics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are currently extensively used as non-surgical treatment options. However, they act as symptomatic treatments, not offering a cure of OA and they are accused for an increased risk of adverse events. Glucosamine (GL) and chondroitin (CH) are nutritional supplements that have recently gained widespread use as treatment options for OA. They potentially or theoretically act as chondroprotectors or/and as “disease-modifying OA drugs” offering not only symptomatic relief but also alteration of the natural history of OA. However, although many studies have showed a significant treatment effect, accompanied with remarkable safety, there is still controversy regarding their relative effectiveness compared with placebo or other treatments. The scope of this review is to present and critically evaluate the current evidence-based information regarding the administration of GL and CH for the treatment of knee or hip OA. Our focus is to investigate the clinical efficacy and safety after the use of these supplements. An effect of GL and CH on both clinical and radiological findings has been shown. However, only a few high-quality level I trials exist in the literature, especially on the assessment of radiological progression of OA. The effect sizes are generally small and probably not clinically relevant. Even the validity of these results is limited by the high risk of bias introduced in the studies. Both GL and CH seem to be safe with no serious adverse events reported. There is currently no convincing information for the efficacy of GL and CH on OA.
Core tip: In this review we present and critically evaluate the current information regarding the administration of glucosamine (GL) and chondroitin (CH) for the treatment of knee or hip osteoarthritis. A clinical and radiological effect of GL and CH has been shown. However, only a few high quality trials exist. The effect sizes are small and probably not clinically relevant. The validity of these results is limited by high risk of bias introduced in the studies. Both GL and CH seem to be safe with no serious adverse events but there is currently no convincing information for their efficacy as treatment options in osteoarthritis.