A dramatic admission—glucosamine and chondroiton work!

A dramatic admission—glucosamine and chondroiton work!

“Scarce currency has been given to the notion that progression of osteoarthritis could be retarded pharmacologically, let alone by a nutritional product. This report may radically change this situation.”

How’s that again? I couldn’t believe what I was reading-and in the world’s best medical journal, the Lancet!

This stunning pronouncement was from Boston University Medical Center arthritis expert Tim McAlindon, M.D., in response to a report by Belgian scientists, published in the January 25, 2001 issue of the Lancet.

The studies were done at the University of Liege, Belgium. The truly momentous finding was that the combination of perfectly safe over-the-counter nutritional products, glucosamine sulfate (a synthetic version of one of the body’s natural cartilage-builders) and chondroitin, not only relieved the pain of the condition (unlike the expensive and unsafe prescription products, which do little) but, on X-ray, revealed healing, that is, a reversal of the calcification of the joints.

“This provides reasonably compelling evidence that [gluco-samine] improves the disease,” said Dr. Jack Klippel, medical director of the American Arthritis Foundation. “This will lead to greater acceptance of glucosamine as a reasonable and safe treatment for osteoarthritis.”

By the age of 70, almost everyone has osteoarthritis to some extent. Osteoarthritis is a painful degenerative joint disease that affects the small joints in the fingers, knees, hips, and back. The neck may also be affected, which can be severely debilitating. This form of arthritis is characterized by much less inflammation and swelling of the joints than rheumatoid arthritis but with more calcification. It is often worse than it appears on examination, but rarely as bad as rheumatoid arthritis.

According to Dr. Klippel, more arthritics take glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin, unbeknownst to their doctors, than take traditional painkillers and anti-inflammatories. This is a stunning admission and justifies my remarks made over the years that rheumatologists may do more harm than good with their constant drugging of their patients.

It has always been an unspoken mantra in medicine that “there will never be a drug that reverses calcification to a significant degree.” I believed it myself and now, an herbal type preparation has shown us the way? It’s enough to give a doctor humility.

We’ll see if the rheumatologists get the message. (Can’t you see the headline: HEALTH FOOD STORES DRIVING RHEUM-ATOLOGISTS OUT OF BUSINESS. And the subhead: “Joint specialists urge the FDA to make arthritis herbals prescription-only–for the safety and welfare of the patients.”) RH

Lancet, 1/22/01