Is there evidence that glucosamine, chondroitin and rosehip tablets work?
Q) I'm a 64-year-old osteoarthritis sufferer. I was in the Royal Marines and have had much injury. More recently I've had both hips resurfaced. My hands, feet and knees are also painful. Voltarol disagreed with my stomach so I stopped taking it. For the past few years I've taken glucosamine and chondroitin. Also, more recently, following favourable reports, I've been taking rosehip tablets. But I'm not sure that they're doing any good. Is there any evidence that these remedies are of value? Is there anything out there that might help me from the debilitation of this awful condition?
Ivan Hellberg, Camberley, Surrey (Spring 2007)
A) Your story is typical in many ways, although your personal history is rather unique. Trauma can lead to joint damage and premature osteoarthritis, although in your case it sounds like you have generalised osteoarthritis, and this may be familial. Glucosamine and chondroitin both have had a lot of attention in the Q&A section. Most of the favourable evidence for the effect of glucosamine comes from manufacturer-sponsored trials. The glucosamine most people take in the UK is in tablet form and not the powder form used in the positive studies. Nevertheless, an important US study using a tablet formulation of glucosamine found no evidence of beneﬁt in osteoarthritis. So the jury is still out, although I know a lot of my patients continue to take it and believe it helps them. As it's relatively non-toxic and fairly cheap I don't discourage them. The evidence for rosehip extract is only just emerging so it's a bit early to be positive about this new plant extract, but it seems relatively non-toxic, like the other supplements.