Objective: To examine the efficacy of chondroitin sulfate (CS) in the treatment of osteoarthritis (OA) on the basis of a metaanalysis of controlled clinical trials.
Methods: After personal, Medline, and Embase searches, a decision tree analysis of the available publications was performed, with respect to types of joint involvement studied, study designs, numbers of patients enrolled, and variables analyzed. The Lequesne index and pain rating on visual analog scale (VAS) were considered the main variables. Of a total of 16 publications found, 7 trials of 372 patients taking CS could be enrolled into the metaanalysis. Although all selected studies claimed to be randomized, double blind designs in parallel groups, it should be noted that CS was given along with analgesics or nonsteroidal antiiflammatory drugs, making required dosage of comedication an important factor.
Results: Following patients to 120 or more days, CS was shown to be significantly superior to placebo with respect to the Lequesne index and pain VAS. Pooled data confirmed these results and showed at least 50% improvement in the study variables in the CS group compared to placebo.
Conclusion: CS may be useful in OA, but further investigations in larger cohorts of patients for longer time periods are needed to prove its usefulness as a symptom modifying drug in OA.