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Professor Martin P Schwellnus, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Background: There is accumulating evidence that a number of drugs, including glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate may be classified as disease-modifying agents in osteoarthritis.

Research question/s: Does chondroitin sulphate (CS) inhibit cartilage loss in knee osteoarthritis?

Methodology:Subjects: 300 patients with knee osteoarthritis (OA).

Experimental procedure: Subjects were randomly assigned to receive either 800 mg CS (CS group = 150) or placebo (CON group = 150) once daily for 2 years. Joint space loss (postero-anterior radiograph of the knee in flexion) and pain and function were assessed over the 2 year study period.

Measures of outcome: Joint space narrowing (min and mean) (mm), pain and function (WOMAC score), 50-ft walking time, time to climb four stairs.

Main finding/s:

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WOMAC scores: there were no significant differences between the groups over the 2 year period.

Adverse events: there were no significant differences in rates of adverse events between the two groups.


  • Long-term treatment (2 years) with CS (800 mg daily), compared with placebo, retarded radiographic progression in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee but there was no significant difference in symptoms

  • Further studies are needed to confirm the structural effects of CS

Evidence based rating : 7.5/10

Clinical interest rating : 7.5/10

Type of study : Randomised, double-blind …

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