Big Pharma’s solution for knee pain is a deal with the devil.
Most of the nearly 50 million Americans with painful knees have osteoarthritis. And the drug of choice is celecoxib. It is one of the world’s biggest-selling pain relievers. Its main draw is that it is non-addicting.
But taking a standard dose of celecoxib (Celebrex) triples the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or dying from cardiovascular problems. Even taking a low dose doubles these risks.
Despite these dangers, 33 million Americans have taken the drug.
One study shows there’s a safer, natural option that works just as well.
It found the supplement chondroitin is just as effective at reducing knee pain as celecoxib—but without the health risks.
Researchers at the University of Liège in Belgium gathered 604 people with knee arthritis. They were all over 50.
The subjects were randomly divided into three groups. One took 200 mg of celecoxib a day. Another took 800 mg of chondroitin sulfate. The third group took a placebo pill. All the pills were made to look identical.
The study was double blind. This means neither the patients nor the researchers knew which subjects were in which group until the study was over. This type of research is the gold standard for medical studies.
As time passed, subjects took pain and function tests. At both three and six months, the chondroitin group improved just as much patients taking celecoxib. Those in the placebo group did not improve at all.
The study also found that 57% of the chondroitin group reached what is known as “Patient Acceptable Symptom State.” This means their quality of life was no longer diminished by pain. They could do whatever they wanted, unhampered by pain. This was almost identical to the celecoxib group’s 59% score.
Although knee pain relief was almost the same among chondroitin and celecoxib patients, there was one big difference… Twice as many celecoxib takers reported stomach pain.
Why Most Chondroitin Supplements Don’t Work
Dr. Jean-Yves Reginster is a professor of public health at the University of Liège. He led the study, which was published in the journal Annals of Rheumatic Diseases.
He said that not all chondroitin products are effective. The ones sold in drug stores and supermarkets often contain cheaper grades of the supplement. Their study used what is called “European pharmaceutical grade” chondroitin.
It contains 95% purified chondroitin 6-sulfate and chondroitin 4-sulfate.
Dr. Reginster said that both forms are needed to reduce osteoarthritis pain. One helps strengthen the joint. The other helps heal it.
You can find European pharmaceutical grade chondroitin at health food stores. It’s also available online.
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