According to the results of a meta-analysis published on the Annals of Internal Medicinewebsite, chondroitin, a popular dietary supplement used to treat osteoarthritis, is ineffective. The analysis was made by a team lead by Stephen Reichenbach, MD.

Chondroitin, essentially cartilage extracted from pig and cow tissue, is usually sold in the United States in combination with glucosamine, a simple amino sugar. It is widely available, and an estimated one billion dollars worth of chondroitin is bought each year.

For this analysis, Reichenbauch et al. selected twenty past trials that compared chondroitin to placebo or no treatment. With these previous results accounted for, they found that there is little evidence so far to suggest chondroitin had little effect on knee or hip pain caused by arthritis. In these studies, the team compared the results with respect to pain relief and with respect to the joint space measured radiologically before and after therapy.

Seventeen of the twenty smaller studies from the early 1990s showed a moderate to large pain relief. However, three recently conducted large trials including more than 40 per cent of all patients found no effect of chondroitin on pain. It was these three larger trials that served as the true focus of the analysis. As a result, they concluded the report with the advice that chondroitin use should “be discouraged” by physicians.

Article References
Chondroitin, Popular Supplement For Joint Pain, Shows No Benefit, site accessed on 4/23/07.

Chondroitin probably ineffective for pain relief in osteoarthritis, site accessed on 4/23/07.