Background: The ancient Indian (Asian) Ayurvedic medicinal system uses herbomineral drugs to treat arthritis. Despite centuries of use, very few have been tested by drug trials. RA-11 (ARTREX, MENDAR), a standardized multiplant Ayurvedic drug (Withania somnifera, Boswellia serrata, Zingiber officinale, and Curcuma longa) is currently used to treat arthritis.
Objective: The objective of this study was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of RA-11 in patients with symptomatic osteoarthritis (OA) of the knees.
Methods: A total of 358 patients with chronic knee pain were screened free-of-cost in "arthritis camps" in an Indian metropolis. Ninety patients with primary OA of the knees (ACR classification; Arthritis Rheum 1986;29:1039-1049) were found eligible (postanalgesic washout pain visual analog score [VAS] > or =40 mm in either or both knees on body weight-bearing activities) to enroll into a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel efficacy, single-center, 32-week drug trial (80% power to detect 25% difference, P = 0.05, 2-sided). Concurrent analgesics/nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs and steroids in any form were not allowed. Lifestyle and/or dietary restrictions, as per routine Ayurveda practices, were not imposed. Pain VAS (maximum pain in each knee recorded by the patient during the preceding 48 hours) and modified WOMAC (Western Ontario McMaster University OA Index, Likert scale, version 3.0) were the primary efficacy variables. The WOMAC section on "physical function difficulty" was modified for Indian use and validated before the trial. Routine laboratory testing was primarily done to monitor drug safety. At baseline, the groups (active = 45, placebo = 45) were well matched for several measures (mean pain VAS: active = 6.17; placebo = 6.5).
Results: 1) EFFICACY: Compared with placebo, the mean reduction in pain VAS at week 16 (active = 2.7, placebo = 1.3) and week 32 (active = 2.8, placebo = 1.8) in the active group was significantly (P <0.05, analysis of variance [ANOVA]) better. Similarly, the improvement in the WOMAC scores at week 16 and week 32 were also significantly superior (P <0.01, ANOVA) in the active group. 2) SAFETY: Both the groups reported mild adverse events (AE) without any significant difference. 3) Withdrawals: Twenty-eight patients were discontinued. None reported drug-related toxicity. The majority failed follow up/compliance. No differences were observed between the groups.
Conclusion: This controlled drug trial demonstrates the potential efficacy and safety of RA- 11 in the symptomatic treatment of OA knees over 32 weeks of therapy.