People with symptoms of osteoarthritis [degenerative joint disease] are unlikely to benefit from taking a drug called doxycycline and may even experience unwanted side-effects, new research suggests.
Doxycycline is an antibiotic that is commonly used to treat bacterial infections, including urinary tract infections, pneumonia, Lyme infection, acne and chlamydia.
Previous research had indicated it may also help modify the disease process in people with osteoarthritis, but the latest clinical trial suggests this is not the case.
Researchers at the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre in The Netherlands conducted a randomized controlled trial involving 232 patients, all of whom had been diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the knee.
Some of the participants were given 100mg, twice a day, of doxycycline for 24 weeks, while others received a placebo (dummy treatment).
By the end of the study, the proportion of patients achieving a clinical response to treatment was identical for both groups.
In addition, there was no difference in levels of pain, stiffness, daily functioning or quality of life between those who took doxycycline and those who did not.
However, patients who received doxycycline had a higher risk of unwanted side-effects.
Publishing their findings in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, the study authors concluded: "Doxycycline is not effective in reducing symptoms in knee osteoarthritis patients over a 24-week study period, but is associated with an increased risk of adverse events." [See the full text article here http://ard.bmj.com/content/70/7/1191.full.]
"Although a possible structure-modifying effect of doxycycline was previously suggested, this is not accompanied by symptom relief in the short and medium term."
A spokeswoman for Arthritis Research UK (www.arthritisresearchuk.org) said the use of antibiotics to treat osteoarthritis was controversial, and welcomed the latest study's findings.
"Weight loss, exercise, physiotherapy and occasional painkillers remain the conventional way of treating osteoarthritis of the knee, while surgery should be considered for severe end-stage disease," she added.
Source: Arthritis Research UK news release, Jul 21, 2011