The European Society for Clinical and Economic Aspects of Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis (ESCEO) published a treatment algorithm for the management of knee osteoarthritis (OA) in 2014, which provides practical guidance for the prioritization of interventions. Further analysis of real-world data for OA provides additional evidence in support of pharmacological interventions, in terms of management of OA pain and function, avoidance of adverse events, disease-modifying effects and long-term outcomes, e.g., delay of total joint replacement surgery, and pharmacoeconomic factors such as reduction in healthcare resource utilization. This article provides an updated assessment of the literature for selected interventions in OA, focusing on real-life data, with the aim of providing easy-to-follow advice on how to establish a treatment flow in patients with knee OA in primary care clinical practice, in support of the clinicians' individualized assessment of the patient. In step 1, background maintenance therapy with symptomatic slow-acting drugs for osteoarthritis (SYSADOAs) is recommended, for which high-quality evidence is provided only for the prescription formulations of patented crystalline glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate. Paracetamol may be added for rescue analgesia only, due to limited efficacy and increasing safety signals. Topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may provide additional symptomatic treatment with the same degree of efficacy as oral NSAIDs without the systemic safety concerns. Oral NSAIDs maintain a central role in step 2 advanced management of persistent symptoms. However, oral NSAIDs are highly heterogeneous in terms of gastrointestinal and cardiovascular safety profile, and patient stratification with careful treatment selection is advocated to maximize the risk:benefit ratio. Intra-articular hyaluronic acid as a next step provides sustained clinical benefit with effects lasting up to 6 months after a short-course of weekly injections. As a last step before surgery, the slow titration of sustained-release tramadol, a weak opioid, affords sustained analgesia with improved tolerability.
Keywords: Chondroitin; Glucosamine; Hyaluronic acid; Knee osteoarthritis; Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; Symptomatic slow-acting drugs for osteoarthritis (SYSADOAs); Tramadol.
Copyright © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.