This study assessed the clinical efficacy of a chemically standardized willow bark extract in the treatment of osteoarthritis. Willow bark extract, in a dose corresponding to 240 mg salicin/day, was compared with placebo in a 2-week, double-blind, randomized controlled trial. The primary outcome measure was the pain dimension of the WOMAC Osteoarthritis Index. Secondary outcome measures included the stiffness and physical function dimensions of the WOMAC, daily visual analogue scales (VAS) on pain and physical function, and final overall assessments by both patients and investigators. A total of 78 patients (39 willow bark extract, 39 placebo) participated in the trial. A statistically significant difference between the active treatment and the placebo group was observed in the WOMAC pain dimension (d = 6.5 mm, 95% C.I. = 0.2-12.7 mm, p = 0.047); the WOMAC pain score was reduced by 14% from the baseline level after 2 weeks of active treatment, compared with an increase of 2% in the placebo group. The patient diary VAS confirmed this result, and likewise the final overall assessments showed superiority of the willow bark extract over the placebo (patients' assessment, p = 0.0002; investigators' assessment, p = 0.0073). It is concluded that the willow bark extract showed a moderate analgesic effect in osteoarthritis and appeared to be well tolerated.
Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.