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Under embargo until 00:01 Friday 11th September 2009

Osteoarthritis (OA) sufferers who turn to natural remedies to cure their joint pain may be wasting their own or NHS money on treatments that do not work. Scientists in Montreal have revealed today that one of the most popular health supplements taken by people with OA – glucosamine hydrochloride – may be no more effective than placebo in a combined analysis of studies involving large numbers of OA sufferers(1).

The Danish research team, who have just presented their findings at the World Congress on Osteoarthritis in Montreal, Quebec, say that greater and more consistent benefits can be gained from taking a rose-hip powder supplement containing the natural substance known as GOPO, which is found in the seeds and husks from a wild variety of English rose-hip called Rosa canina. When the rose-hip studies were analysed in the same way as the glucosamine studies, the rose-hip powder was found to be markedly better than popular glucosamine products as a treatment for OA joint pain(1).

The glucosamine controversy

The use of glucosamine hydrochloride in the treatment of OA has been controversial for several years. Many well-conducted individual studies have found no benefits of the supplement on joint pain associated with OA, leading some experts to conclude that the treatment is ineffective in OA at the widely-used dose of 500 mg three times a day(2).

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) does not recommend glucosamine as a treatment for OA, yet many patients still pay around £10 per month to buy glucosamine over the counter, and many GPs continue to prescribe glucosamine, despite the lack of clear evidence for its benefits. One Strategic Health Authority in the UK spent over £200,000 on glucosamine prescriptions between 2007 and 2008, and there is evidence that significantly more money than this could be wasted on glucosamine prescriptions in the future.

The power of rose-hips in OA

Rose-hip powder preparations have attracted growing interest from arthritis specialists across the globe. As reported in Montreal, studies assessing rose-hip powders containing GOPO have consistently demonstrated their ability to reduce OA joint pain and the use of other ‘rescue’ pain medications(3). Rose-hip powders containing GOPO have been found to have potent anti-inflammatory properties, which may help to explain how they work in OA. Only one rose-hip product containing GOPO is currently available in the UK (LitoZin® Joint Health).

Dr Rod Hughes, a Consultant Rheumatologist at St Peter’s Hospital in Chertsey, Surrey, believes that the results from this latest study could lead to a reduction in glucosamine use by many OA sufferers, but should also encourage the use of rose-hip powder as an effective alternative for those seeking a natural remedy for their symptoms.

‘We know that many OA sufferers like the idea of using natural remedies such as glucosamine to treat their condition. This new review of some of the evidence has shown that glucosamine may not be effective in pain-relief in OA.

‘The evidence for the benefits of rose-hip powder in OA appears consistent, and, if patients wish to take a natural remedy in addition to any other prescribed treatment, on the basis of this review, I would recommend they try a rose-hip supplement containing GOPO.’


1. Christensen R, Bartels EM, Bliddal H. Efficacy of glucosamine hydrochloride or specialized rosehip powder in osteoarthritis patients: an indirect comparison meta-analysis. Poster presentation at the World Congress on Osteoarthritis (OARSI), Montreal, 10–13 September 2009.
2. Vlad SC, LaValley MP, McAlindon TE et al. Glucosamine for pain in osteoarthritis. Why do trial results differ? Arth Rheum 2007; 56: 2267–2277.
3. Christensen R, Bartels EM, Altman RD et al. Does the hip powder of Rosa canina (rosehip) reduce pain in osteoarthritis patients? – a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Osteoarthritis Cartilage 2008; 16: 965–972.

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