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Cochrane review should ‘end all the debates on chondroitin’s efficacy for osteoarthritis’

By Stephen DANIELLS , 06-Feb-2015
Last updated on 06-Feb-2015 at 17:41 GMT2015-02-06T17:41:16Z

Cochrane review should ‘end all the debates on chondroitin’s efficacy for osteoarthritis’

Chondroitin sulfate is safe and efficacious for improving pain and functional capacity in people with osteoarthritis, says a new review from the prestigious Cochrane Collaboration.

Data from 43 clinical trials including 9,110 people receiving chondroitin sulfate supplements indicated that, not only did the supplement produce ‘small to moderate’ benefits for people with osteoarthritis, but the risk of adverse events was also lower than in the control groups.

“The combination of some efficacy and low risk associated with chondroitin may explain its popularity among patients as an over-the-counter supplement,” wrote the authors, led by Jasvinder Singh from the Birmingham VA Medical Center in Alabama.

Ending the debate

The review’s findings were welcomed by leading chondroitin suppliers. Weiguo Zhang, founder and CEO of Synutra Pure, Ltd., told us: “I think this should end all the debates over the years on chondroitin efficacy for osteoarthritis.  Consumers and industry stakeholders need to turn their attention to the real causes behind doubts for chondroitin: quality, purity, and adequacy of supplementation.

Top seller

Chondroitin-containing supplement products are in the top five best-selling dietary supplements, with annual sales of about $1 billion, and all chondroitin sold in the US is from overseas.

Chondroitin sulfate is extracted from animal cartilage. In dietary supplements the compound is often formulated in combination with glucosamine.

“If one suffers from degenerative osteoarthritis pain, takes a joint health supplement containing chondroitin for some time, and still finds it not effective, most likely it is because the supplement ingredient is of low quality or adulterated, or because the supplement does not have adequate amount of chondroitin in it.  We have lead the industry to clean up the chondroitin ingredient supply chain, investing deeply in research and education.  When pure ingredients are used in the right amounts, always, chondroitin works.”

Highly relevant results

Dr. Josep Vergés, clinical pharmacologist and medical and scientific director of Spanish company Bioiberica, said: “These are highly relevant results that, from my point of view, should put an end to the controversy on the efficacy and safety of chondroitin sulfate. At Bioiberica we have been working for more than 10 years on this product, whose efficacy has been scientifically and clinically proved.

“This review included controlled clinical trials using pharmaceutical-grade chondroitin sulfate such as Bioiberica’s, as well as studies carried out with compounds of untested quality. This is why the authors included a comment on the elevated heterogeneity of the studies. This is the reality of the current market, and even in this context their global assessment of the product is positive,” he added.

Review details

Data from 43 clinical trials using chondroitin sulfate for osteoarthritis indicated that chondroitin sulfate is better than placebo in improving pain and functional capacity in osteoarthritic patients, with the added advantage of improved safety.

In addition, chondroitin sulfate was associated with slightly delayed narrowing of joint space on X-rays of the affected joint compared to placebo, indicating that the ingredient may slow down progression of the disease.

Combining chondroitin with glucosamine also produced a statistically significant reduction in pain, compared with placebo.  

‘Strengthening the conclusions reached by the Cochrane’

“The Cochrane Collaboration is a well-designed systematic review of all the randomized clinical trials in the literature up until 2013 assessing the efficacy and safety of chondroitin,” said Jana Hildreth, Director of Technology and Scientific Affairs, Synutra Pure Ltd.

“The conclusion that chondroitin was effective in reducing joint pain in patients with osteoarthritis supports what many of us who take it for joint health have known all along - it really works. The most recent publication of the MOVES multi-center, randomized, double-blind study (which was not included in the Cochrane statistics since it was published after 2013), further strengthens the conclusions reached by the Cochrane.”

Source: The Cochrane Library
Published online, doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD005614.pub2
Chondroitin for osteoarthritis
Authors: J.A. Singh, S. Noorbaloochi, R. MacDonald, L.J. Maxwell

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