Objective: : To evaluate the efficacy and safety of a homeopathic gel vs an NSAID (piroxicam) gel in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee.
Method: : One hundred and eighty-four out-patients with radiographically confirmed symptomatic osteoarthritis of the knee were entered into a pragmatic, randomized, double-blind controlled trial and treated with 1 g of gel three times daily for 4 weeks. Main outcome measures were pain on walking as a Visual Analogue Score (VAS) and a single-joint Ritchie index.
Results: : One hundred and seventy-two of the 184 enrolled patients had endpoints for the main outcome parameters. The pain reduction was 16.5 mm VAS in the homeopathy group (n = 86) and 8.1 mm in the piroxicam group (n = 86); the difference between treatment groups was 8.4 mm (95% confidence interval 0.8-15.9), and after adjustment for pain at baseline it was 6.8 mm (95% confidence interval -0.3 to 13.8). There was no significant difference between treatment groups in the single-joint Ritchie index (P = 0.78). Adverse events occurred in 28 patients (12 homeopathy group, 5 withdrawn; 16 piroxicam group, 9 withdrawn); 18 of the events involved a local reaction (7 homeopathy group, 2 withdrawn; 11 piroxicam group, 5 withdrawn).
Conclusion: : The homeopathic gel was at least as effective and as well tolerated as the NSAID gel. The presence of a clinically relevant difference between treatment groups cannot be excluded. The homeopathic gel supplemented by simple analgesics if required may provide a useful treatment option for patients with osteoarthritis.