What is the role of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate in the treatment of osteoarthritis (OA)?

Updated: Jun 10, 2020
  • Author: Carlos J Lozada, MD; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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Answer

Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate have been used in Europe for many years and continue to be popular with patients worldwide. In the United States, however, the glucosamine/chondroitin arthritis intervention trial (GAIT) reported, at best, limited benefit from glucosamine (500 mg 3 times daily), chondroitin sulfate (400 mg 3 times daily), or the combination of the 2 in patients with knee osteoarthritis. [103, 104]

In GAIT patients overall, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate alone or in combination did not reduce pain effectively at 24 weeks, but in patients with moderate-to-severe pain at baseline, the rate of response was significantly higher with combined therapy than with placebo (79.2% vs. 54.3%). [104] At 2 years, no treatment achieved a clinically important difference in loss of joint-space width, though treatment effects on Kellgren-Lawrence grade 2 knees showed a trend toward improvement relative to the placebo group. [103]

The AHRQ comparison found no clear difference between glucosamine or chondroitin and oral NSAIDs for relieving pain or improving function. [80] However, the AHRQ observed that most trials showing therapeutic benefits from glucosamine used pharmaceutical-grade glucosamine that is not available in the United States, noting that the trial findings may therefore be inapplicable to currently available over-the-counter preparations.


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