Unproven Remedies

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Many people with arthritis become discouraged with typical treatments because the disease progresses over time and the symptoms worsen. Consequently, they search for alternative therapies aimed at arthritis. But arthritis patients need to be careful because treatments not shown to be safe and effective through controlled scientific studies may be dangerous. According to the Arthritis Foundation, the benefits of a treatment in controlling arthritis should be greater than the risk of unwanted or harmful effects. Since arthritis symptoms may come and go, a person using an unproven remedy may mistakenly think the remedy worked simply because he or she tried it when symptoms were going into a natural remission.

Two controversial nutritional supplements, not approved by FDA, have catapulted into the spotlight because of claims that they rebuild joint tissues damaged by osteoarthritis–or halt the disease entirely. But at this time, the use of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplements warrant further in-depth studies on their safety and effectiveness, according to the Arthritis Foundation. NIH plans to study the effectiveness of these supplements.

Both glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate occur in the body naturally and are vital to normal cartilage formation, but the Arthritis Foundation says there’s no evidence that swallowed chondroitin is absorbed into the body and deposited into the joints. Moreover, no one knows how much glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are in the bottles since current law does not require dietary supplements to be manufactured under the same good manufacturing practice standards as pharmaceuticals. As reported in the December 1999 UC Berkeley Wellness Letter, “It’s a hit-or-miss proposition because there’s no standardization and no guarantee that you’re getting what the label says.”

The Arthritis Foundation urges anyone considering using these supplements to become “fully educated about potential positive and negative effects.” In addition, people are encouraged to consult their physicians about how the supplements fit within their existing treatment regimens. Above all, do not stop proven treatments and disease-management techniques in favor of the supplements.

The Arthritis Foundation also says that copper bracelets, mineral springs, vibrators, magnets, vinegar and honey, dimethyl sulfoxide, large doses of vitamins, drugs with hidden ingredients (such as steroids), and snake venom are all unproven remedies. And any unproven remedy, no matter how harmless, can become harmful if it stops or delays someone from seeking a prescribed treatment program from a knowledgeable physician.

Source: Food and Drug Administration

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