Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Glucosamine for treatment of Knee Osteoarthritis

Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the most prevalent disabilities worldwide.  It affects both men and women and can significantly decrease quality of life in those individuals who are affected.  It is common belief that knee pain and arthritis are correlated with overuse.  Being that I have been a lifelong athlete, I was curious about the best non-invasive treatment for knee osteoarthritis, as I am likely to have knee OA, myself, in the future.  I searched many articles, mostly addressing herbs and supplements for knee arthritis.  There were too many articles that addressed this condition separately, so I had to narrow my search.  I then searched just for glucosamine, as that is a well known recommended supplement, for knee pain.  I found only one randomized controlled trial that compared glucosamine hydrochloride to placebo.

After reading the entire study, it was incredibly difficult to truly understand the net treatment benefit.  Once I entered the information into the Star BlocksTM, as seen below, I was able to really see how effective glucosamine is in treating moderate to severe knee OA, as compared to placebo.


As you can see above, the pain in the treatment group decreased by 42 percent.  You can also see that the quality of the study was initially given an "A" grade.  So while the overall score for the study remains at an "A", this study is not as good as a larger, longer study on the subject.  Additionally, since the treatment was only 42% effective, it cannot get a treatment grade of "A" and thus gets a "C" grade.  By putting in both the glucosamine arm, and the placebo arm, you can see below that the placebo arm ends up with a treatment grade of "D" due to it's decreased efficacy as compared to glucosamine.

This study shows us that glucosamine is more effective than placebo in treating knee osteoarthritis.  Treatment Scores allows us to quantify the net treatment benefit as compared to placebo, or as compared to anything else a study may be trying to prove.

It is important that both patients and physicians alike are able to compare different treatments for different disease processes.  As the literature stands now, it is almost impossible to interpret different studies and gather quantitative information based on their outcomes.  It is difficult to assess whether or not a study is biased, and it is presently impossible to compare the effectiveness of treatment to another for a certain disease.  Treatment Scores will continue to quantify the vast amount of research studies out there and thus make it easier for people to understand which treatments work well for a particular disease.  

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