Inappropriate claims from non-equivalent medications in osteoarthritis: a position paper endorsed by the European Society for Clinical and Economic Aspects of Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases (ESCEO).
Bruyère O., Cooper C., Al-Daghri NM., Dennison EM., Rizzoli R., Reginster J-Y.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a progressive joint disease, that occurs frequently in the aging population and is a major cause of disability worldwide. Both glucosamine and chondroitin are biologically active molecules that are substrates for proteoglycan, an essential component of the cartilage matrix. Evidence supports the use of glucosamine and chondroitin as symptomatic slow-acting drugs for osteoarthritis (SYSADOAs) with impact on OA symptoms and disease-modifying effects in the long term. Glucosamine and chondroitin are administered in exogenous form as a sulfate salt and multiple formulations of these agents are available, both as prescription-grade products and nutritional supplements. However, while all preparations may claim to deliver a therapeutic level of glucosamine or chondroitin not all are supported by clinical evidence. Only patented crystalline glucosamine sulfate (pCGS) is shown to deliver consistently high glucosamine bioavailability and plasma concentration in humans, which corresponds to demonstrated clinical efficacy. Similarly, clinical evidence supports only the pharmaceutical-grade chondroitin sulfate. The European Society for Clinical and Economic Aspects of Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases (ESCEO) advocates, through careful consideration of the evidence base, that judicious choice of glucosamine and chondroitin formulation is essential to maximize clinical benefit, patient adherence and satisfaction with treatment. In future, the ESCEO recommends that complex molecules with biological activity such as pCGS may be treated as "biosimilars" akin to the European Medicines Agency guidance on biological medicinal products. It seems likely that for all other complex molecules classed as SYSADOAs, the recommendation to use only formulations clearly supported by the evidence-base should apply.