Effectiveness and safety of glucosamine and chondroitin for the treatment of osteoarthritis: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

J Orthop Surg Res. 2018 Jul 6;13(1):170. doi: 10.1186/s13018-018-0871-5.


Objective: To assess the symptomatic effectiveness and safety of oral symptomatic slow-acting drugs (SYSADOAs) on the treatment of knee and/or hip osteoarthritis, such as chondroitin, glucosamine, and combination treatment with chondroitin plus glucosamine.

Methods: We searched electronic database including PubMed, Embase, Cochrane Library, and the reference lists of relevant articles published from inception to May 22, 2018. An updated meta-analysis was performed to assess the effectiveness of these slow-acting drugs for osteoarthritis.

Results: Twenty-six articles describing 30 trials met our inclusion criteria and were included in the meta-analysis. The estimates between chondroitin and placebo showed that chondroitin could alleviate pain symptoms and improve function. Compared with placebo, glucosamine proved significant effect only on stiffness improvement. However, the combination therapy did not have enough evidence to be superior to placebo. Additionally, there was no significant difference in the incidence of AEs and discontinuations of AEs when compared with placebo.

Conclusions: Given the effectiveness of these symptomatic slow-acting drugs, oral chondroitin is more effective than placebo on relieving pain and improving physical function. Glucosamine showed effect on stiffness outcome. Regarding on the limited number of combination therapy, further studies need to investigate the accurate effectiveness. This information accompanied with the tolerability and economic costs of included treatments would be conducive to making decisions for clinicians.

Keywords: Chondroitin; Glucosamine; Osteoarthritis; Treatment.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chondroitin / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Glucosamine / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Osteoarthritis, Hip / drug therapy*
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / drug therapy*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Chondroitin
  • Glucosamine