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Chondroitin sulfate is more efficient than anti-inflammatory drugs for delaying the progression of knee osteoarthritis

10 Nov 2015
  • This is the main conclusion of a new clinical essay that proved, by means of Quantitative Magnetic Resonance, that pharmaceutical grade chondroitin sulfate is superior to an anti-inflammatory drug (celecoxib) for delaying the disease’s progression
  • The results also revealed that chondroitin sulfate possesses the same level of efficiency as celecoxib for the improvement of pain and mobility in knee osteoarthritis, with the added advantage of a higher safety profile
  • This research project has been selected by the American Academy of Rheumatology as one of the keynote addresses of this year’s annual meeting 

Chondroitin sulfate is superior to an anti-inflammatory drug (celecoxib) for delaying the progression of knee osteoarthritis. This is the main conclusion of a new study carried out with Quantitative Magnetic Resonance, which was presented by Professor Jean Pierre Pelletier[1] at the official press conference of the Annual meeting of the American Academy of Rheumatology; being held in San Francisco, California.

This is a multicenter, randomized, double blind, controlled and comparative study analyzing chondroitin sulfate and celecoxib. Lasting more than three years, the study, named MOSAIC (24 MOnth study on Structural changes in knee osteoarthritis Assessed by mrI with Chondroitin sulphate), was carried out in five medical centers in Quebec (Canada) in collaboration with Bioiberica. The study recruited 194 patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis with inflammation (synovitis) and moderate pain. Participants were divided into two groups: the first group received 1,200 mg of pharmaceutical grade chondroitin sulfate (made by Bioiberica) per day, while the second group received 200 mg of celecoxib (made by Pfizer) per day, over a two-year period. The participants underwent three Quantitative Magnetic Resonance scans: one at the beginning of the study, a second one after one year, and a third one at the end of the study. The main aim was to assess the effects of chondroitin sulfate and celecoxib over the loss of cartilage volume in knee osteoarthritis after 24 months by means of Quantitative Magnetic Resonance. 

 “There has been much talk about the efficacy of chondroitin sulfate in osteoarthritis and we believed that it was about time to use the latest imaging techniques available to assess its efficacy. Osteoarthritis is characterized by the progressive wear and tear of the cartilage, and the magnetic resonance technique allows one to precisely assess the loss of cartilage, and therefore, the disease’s progression. This is the main new feature of this study-until now, long term studies like this one could only use radiography,” explained Professor Pelletier.

The results revealed that the progression of knee osteoarthritis is slower in patients receiving chondroitin sulfate. More precisely, this group experienced a statistically significant lower loss of cartilage volume after the first year of treatment, in comparison with those patients who received the anti inflammatory drug. “This data proves that chondroitin sulfate may delay the advance of osteoarthritis in the long term, and that it had a disease-modifying effect”, affirmed Professor Pelletier.

The study also evaluated the effects of both drugs on the disease’s symptoms. More precisely, the study evaluated their effects on pain, function, stiffness, joint efflux and swelling; concluding that both treatments were equally efficient across the entire study, reaching a clinically relevant symptom improvement of around 50%. “The study confirmed that both drugs are efficient for the treatment of osteoarthritis symptoms, although only chondroitin sulfate has the additional advantage of exerting a joint protection effect and a better safety profile”, declared Professor Pelletier. Dr. Josep Vergés, medical and scientific director at Bioberica, added that “this study shows that chondroitin sulfate complies with the requirements that an osteoarthritis drug must fulfill: on one hand, it improves pain and functional capacity, and, on the other hand, it delays the disease’s progression while having a good safety profile, something essential in a chronic disease such as osteoarthritis.

[1] MD; professor of medicine, University of Montreal; director, Rheumatic Disease Unit, Department of Medicine, University of Montreal School of Medicine; head, Arthritis Division, University of Montreal Hospital Centre (CHUM); head, Chair in Osteoarthritis of the University of Montreal; and director, Osteoarthritis Research Unit, University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM).