Glucosamine and chondroitin have been the red headed stepchildren of modern medicine for many years. While a chunk of more alternative medicine minded family physicians would recommend them and their use has skyrocketed due to a mass of supplement products, the average family doc was much more likely to prescribe pharma concoctions like Celebrex than either of these two. Now a new research study just presented at the American College of Rheumatology meeting could change all of that, as chondroitin beats Celebrex dramatically in a head to head trial!
Chondroitin is a component of cartilage and the theory for taking it has always been simple – provide your body with the building blocks of cartilage and just maybe this may preserve or build cartilage. While the reality of how chondroitin works is likely a heck of a lot more complex, small studies using MRI have shown that chondroitin preserves cartilage. In addition, along with it’s cousin glucosamine, chondroitin is a potent anti-inflammatory. In fact, the two will even lower cardiac risk factors.
The study looked specifically at how Celebrex and chondroitin were able to impact the progressive loss of cartilage that’s a hallmark of arthritis in just under two hundred patients. One group took 200 mg of Celebrex and the other took 1,200 mg of chondroitin a day and both groups were followed for two years. MRIs were tracked for loss of cartilage, the status of bone marrow lesions, and to measure swelling in the lining of the joint (synovial membrane). At both one and two years, there was less whole knee cartilage loss in the chondroitin group as well as less synovial inflammation. Both groups did about the same with regards to reducing pain and increasing function.
The upshot? Given that Celebrex has serious cardiac sudden death side effects and has other serious complications associated with it’s use, hopefully this study will put a stake in the heart of this drug. Celebrex is one of the drugs in the family of NSAID drugs that was removed from the market due to heart side effects, and it was ostensibly left on the market presumably to give physicians an option for treating arthritis because no other good options existed. So is it now time to remove this drug from the market? In the meantime, if you have arthritis and have been put on Celebrex, talk to your doctor about getting off it and taking chondroitin instead!