Chondroitin sulfate supports reduced OA hand pain & stiffness safely

[Note: According to the authors of this large, well-controlled study, 20% to 30% of all adults have OA of the hand, rising to 50% after age 60. Little research has focused on therapies for hand OA per se, so the trial provides valuable insight regarding potential benefits of sustained nutritional supplementation for this group.]

Symptomatic effect of chondroitin sulfate 4&6 in hand osteoarthritis the finger osteoarthritis chondroitin treatment study (FACTS) – Source: Arthritis & Rheumatism, Sep 6, 2011

By Cem Gabay, et al.

Objective: To evaluate the symptomatic effect of highly purified chondroitin 4&6 sulfate (CS) in patients with hand osteoarthritis (OA). [Considered a dietary supplement in the US and a medicinal product in Europe, CS is a naturally occurring molecule that is a main component of joint cartilage.]

Methods: This investigator initiated, single-center, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, clinical trial included 162 symptomatic patients with radiographic hand OA (ACR criteria).

Inclusion criteria included global:

• Spontaneous hand pain on a 0-100 mm visual analogue scale (VAS) of at least 40 mm,

• And a level of functional impairment of at least 6 on the Functional Index for Hand OA (FIHOA: 0-30 scale)

… in the most symptomatic hand.

Patients received either 800 mg CS (n=80 patients) or placebo (n= 82 patients) once daily for 6 months and were analyzed in an intent-to-treat approach.

The two primary outcomes were the change from baseline to month 6 in global spontaneous hand pain and in hand function.

Secondary outcomes were improvement in grip strength, duration of morning stiffness, acetaminophen consumption, and a global impression of efficacy.


• Decrease in global hand pain was significantly more pronounced in the CS than in the placebo group (VAS: reduced 8.7 mm, P=0.02).

Hand function improved significantly more in the CS than in the placebo group (FIHOA: reduced 2.14 points, P=0.008).

• There was a statistically significant difference between groups in favor of CS for the duration of morning stiffness and for the global impression of treatment efficacy.

• Evolution of grip strength, acetaminophen consumption, and safety endpoints were not significantly different between the two groups.

Conclusion: This study demonstrates that CS improves hand pain and function in symptomatic hand OA, with a good safety profile.

Source: Arthritis & Rheumatism, Sep 6, 2011. DOI: 10.1002/art.30574, by Gabay C, Medinger-Sadowski C, Gascon D, Kolo F, Finckh A. Divisions of Rheumatology and Radiology, University Hospitals of Geneva and University of Geneva School of Medicine, Switzerland.

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