Another recent article seems to question the effectiveness of the use of joint supplements by people with arthritis. Using a meta-analysis of a number of studies on the effectiveness of glucosamine, the current article indicates that supplement usage was no more effective than placebo.
Without getting into a discussion of potential flaws or implications of this study, consumers are left wondering what to do. There is no question that joint supplements tend to be less expensive and safer to use than currently recommended nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS.) If consumers believe some of the recently published articles that purport to show a lack of effectiveness for joint supplements, my concern is that they will turn to chronic NSAID usage which could be harmful or even fatal due to the well-known side effects (kidney disease, liver disease, worsening of the arthritis, gastrointestinal ulcers and perforations) of this class of medications.
Additionally, many consumers currently using joint supplements experience the positive effects commonly seen with these products, including relief from pain, reduced inflammation, reduce joint swelling, and increased mobility. While skeptics may claim it is only a placebo effect (and in some case they may be correct,) if the end result is an improved quality of life, does it really matter why the patient feels better or gets better?
In my own veterinary practice, the placebo effect cannot occur. Either my canine and feline patients improve and begin walking, or they don’t and they remain lame. I have seen thousands of pets improve when administered joint supplements and taken off of NSAID medications. Neither the owners or I were making this up. Either the pet walks or it doesn’t walk: this is not a placebo effect.
While I appreciate ongoing research into the use of joint supplements, I still encourage people to use joint supplements for themselves and to administer them to their pets. I have seen the effectiveness of these products and have also seen the horrible side effects of chronic NSAID usage. While researchers can continue to fight over the effectiveness of joint supplements, I will continue to use them and other treatments that help improve the lives of my patients.