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Review: both glucosamine and chondroitin are effective for osteoarthritis, but the magnitude of effect is unclear

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QUESTION: In patients with osteoarthritis (OA), are glucosamine and chondroitin effective for relieving symptoms and improving function?

Data sources

Studies were identified by searching Medline (1966 to June 1999) and the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register. Handsearches were done of bibliographies of articles and meeting abstracts published in supplements of Arthritis and Rheumatism, the British Journal of Rheumatology, and Osteoarthritis and Cartilage (1978–98). Authors, content experts, and drug manufacturers were contacted to identify unpublished studies.

Study selection

Studies in any language were selected if they were randomised, double blind, controlled trials that compared oral or parenteral glucosamine sulphate, glucosamine hydrochloride, or chondroitin sulphate with placebo for ≥4 weeks in patients with knee or hip OA. Studies also had to include ≥1 outcome measure from a list compiled by the reviewers.

Data extraction

2 reviewers assessed the quality of studies (14 item quality scale) …

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  • Source of funding: National Institutes of Health.

  • For correspondence: Dr T E McAlindon, The Arthritis Center, Boston University School of Medicine, 715 Albany Street, A203, Boston, MA 02118, USA. Fax +1 617 638 5239.

  • A modified version of this abstract appears in ACP Journal Club.