Objective: Although available nonsurgical pharmacotherapies for treatment of osteoarthritis (OA) are considered to be solely symptom-modifying agents, recent advances have been made in the search for agents that may modify disease progression. Intra-articular hyaluronan (HA) therapy is one symptom-modifying approach that has been found to be safe and effective for reducing pain due to OA of the knee. Presented here is a review of the evidence that HAs may also modify the rate of OA disease progression in addition to providing symptomatic efficacy.
Design: A review of the literature based on a MEDLINE search through June 2004, using the terms HA, sodium hyaluronate, hyaluronic acid, hylan, hylan G-F 20, OA, disease modification, structure modifying and joint structure.
Results: Evidence for disease-modifying activity of HAs stems from 1) the complex biochemical effects of HAs in the synovium and extracellular matrix of the articular cartilage, including interactions between exogenously administered HA and articular cartilage, subchondral bone, matrix proteoglycans, and collagens; 2) the effects of HA administration in animal models of OA, including total or partial meniscectomy and anterior cruciate ligament transectomy; 3) results of clinical trials using one HA, Hyalgan (sodium hyaluronate, molecular weight 500-730 kDa) that evaluated structural outcomes, such as joint-space width, chondrocyte density and vitality, and arthroscopic evaluation of chondropathy.
Discussion: Growing preclinical and clinical evidence supports the notion that, in addition to relieving the symptoms of OA, HAs also modify the structure of the diseased joint and the rate of OA disease progression, at least early in the evolution of the disease process.