We now have so many studies that show that Glucosamine and Chondroitin (GC) work well for knee arthritis that it’s silly arguing that they don’t work. Now a new study compares the dangerous drug Celebrex and finds it to be equivalent for knee arthritis to GC! Why hasn’t this study been on every major news outlet? The answer to that question also tells the story of why every few years some university takes a potshot at supplements in general and GC in particular.
There are a ton of high quality studies that show the efficacy of Glucosamine for knee arthritis. In fact, the latest large review of the many studies on the topic showed that most high quality studies showed that GC works well. The supplements also protect cartilage and reduce breakdown markers. Having said that, every few years a study seems to surface claiming the opposite. What gives?
Well, to understand the GC debate you have to understand that the modern university is a big business interest no different in principle than CostCo. It sells a product which is “expertise”, but has a much better profit margin than the super sized tub of something you don’t need at the local warehouse store. For example, while the local store may eek out a 5% profit margin on toothpaste, the local university often takes 35-50% of all monies spent on research as an “administrative fee”. In addition to throwing big bucks at universities in administrative fees for research, big drug companies like Pfizer (the manufacturer of Celebrex) aren’t shy about advertising their connections to major universities. Case in point is the Pfizer Lecture Hall at Harvard. So this is why you likely haven’t read about this new research showing just how well GC works (or how poorly Celebrex works), as no major university would dare put out a press release that could offend a benefactor.
The new study was conducted in Europe and looked at 606 patients with moderate arthritis and moderate-severe knee pain in three different countries. They were randomized to receive either GC or Celebrex for 6 months while pain and function were measured. Both groups did about the same, with GC slightly edging out Celebrex! This finding on Celebrex isn’t new. In 2010 the large GAIT study also showed that Glucosamine did as well as Celebrex in helping the pain and function of knee arthritis patients.
The upshot? The untold story here is obviously that while Celebrex is a dangerous drug that was nearly pulled off the market for severe cardiac side effects (basically more than tripling your risk of sudden death from a massive heart attack), there are no such known risks for GC. So what doctor worth his salt that reads this study and understands the risks would ever again prescribe Celebrex for knee arthritis before trying GC? Oh wait, there is no Glucosamine lecture hall at Harvard and supplement manufacturers don’t have the coin to hire really attractive sales reps to bring in fancy lunches to doctor’s offices…never mind, just dreaming…