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Chondroitin Sulfate

By

Laura Shane-McWhorter

, PharmD, University of Utah College of Pharmacy

Reviewed/Revised Jan 2023
View PATIENT EDUCATION

Chondroitin sulfate is a glycosaminoglycan, a natural component of cartilage. It is extracted from shark or cow cartilage or manufactured synthetically. Its composition can vary. It is frequently combined with glucosamine Glucosamine Glucosamine is a precursor of multiple cartilage constituents. It is extracted from chitin (in shells of crabs, oysters, and shrimp) and is taken in tablet or capsule form, usually as glucosamine... read more .

Claims

Chondroitin sulfate is used to treat osteoarthritis Osteoarthritis (OA) Osteoarthritis is a chronic arthropathy characterized by disruption and potential loss of joint cartilage along with other joint changes, including bone hypertrophy (osteophyte formation). Symptoms... read more Osteoarthritis (OA) . Scientific evidence shows no benefit when chondroitin sulfate is taken by itself. However, evidence suggests that in combination with glucosamine Glucosamine Glucosamine is a precursor of multiple cartilage constituents. It is extracted from chitin (in shells of crabs, oysters, and shrimp) and is taken in tablet or capsule form, usually as glucosamine... read more , it may reduce joint pain, improve joint mobility, and allow reduction of the doses of conventional anti-inflammatory drugs when it is taken for 6 to 24 months. Effects over longer periods are unclear. Mechanism is unknown. Dose is 600 mg orally once/day to 400 mg orally 3 times a day.

Evidence

Evidence on efficacy of chondroitin sulfate is conflicting. The Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT), a large, randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, multicenter clinical trial studied use of glucosamine (500 mg orally 3 times a day), chondroitin sulfate (400 mg orally 3 times a day), and both drugs to treat osteoarthritis of the knee; in the group as a whole, pain was not reduced. However, exploratory subanalyses suggested efficacy in a subgroup of patients with moderate-to-severe knee pain (1 References Chondroitin sulfate is a glycosaminoglycan, a natural component of cartilage. It is extracted from shark or cow cartilage or manufactured synthetically. Its composition can vary. It is frequently... read more ). Prior to that trial, only small trials had studied chondroitin sulfate alone or in combination with glucosamine to treat osteoarthritis.

A review of 43 randomized, controlled trials has also suggested that the benefit of chondroitin is limited to slight pain improvement in short-term studies, although quality of life may improve (2 References Chondroitin sulfate is a glycosaminoglycan, a natural component of cartilage. It is extracted from shark or cow cartilage or manufactured synthetically. Its composition can vary. It is frequently... read more ). A different meta-analysis of 18 randomized placebo-controlled trials found that chondroitin treatment ranging from 13 to 104 weeks reduced pain and improved function (3 References Chondroitin sulfate is a glycosaminoglycan, a natural component of cartilage. It is extracted from shark or cow cartilage or manufactured synthetically. Its composition can vary. It is frequently... read more ). It has been suggested the reason for conflicting symptomatic benefit is due to the poor quality of several food-grade chondroitin sulfate supplements and that pharmaceutical-grade chondroitin sulfate with defined percent purity and sequences of oligosaccharides is efficacious and be used for treatment (4 References Chondroitin sulfate is a glycosaminoglycan, a natural component of cartilage. It is extracted from shark or cow cartilage or manufactured synthetically. Its composition can vary. It is frequently... read more ). In the randomized placebo-controlled CONCEPT study, efficacy of pharmaceutical-grade chondroitin sulfate 800 mg was superior to placebo and similar to celecoxib in knee osteoarthritis (5 References Chondroitin sulfate is a glycosaminoglycan, a natural component of cartilage. It is extracted from shark or cow cartilage or manufactured synthetically. Its composition can vary. It is frequently... read more ). Heterogeneity of osteoarthritic symptoms and causes also contribute to the difficulty of use in clinical practice.

Adverse Effects

No serious adverse effects have been reported. Among the most common adverse effects are stomach pain, nausea, and other gastrointestinal symptoms.

Drug Interactions

References

  • 1. Clegg DO, Reda DJ, Harris CL, et al: Glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and the two in combination for painful knee osteoarthritis. N Engl J Med 354(8):795-808, 2006. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa052771

  • 2. Singh JA, Noorbaloochi S, MacDonald R, et al: Chondroitin for osteoarthritis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 1:CD005614, 2015. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD005614.pub2

  • 3. Honvo G, Bruyère O, Geerinck A, et al: Efficacy of chondroitin sulfate in patients with knee osteoarthritis: a comprehensive meta-analysis exploring inconsistencies in randomized, placebo-controlled trials. Adv Ther 36(5):1085-1099, 2019. doi:10.1007/s12325-019-00921-w

  • 4. Hochberg M, Chevalier X, Henrotin Y, et al: Symptom and structure modification in osteoarthritis with pharmaceutical-grade chondroitin sulfate: what's the evidence? Curr Med Res Opin 29(3): 259-267, 2013. doi: 10.1185/03007995.2012.753430

  • 5. Reginster JY, Dudler J, Blicharski T, et al: Pharmaceutical-grade chondroitin sulfate is as effective as celecoxib and superior to placebo in symptomatic knee osteoarthritis: the ChONdroitin versus CElecoxib versus Placebo Trial (CONCEPT). Ann Rheum Dis 76(9):1537-1543, 2017. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2016-210860

  • 6. Kolasinski SL, Neogi T, Hochberg MC, et al: 2019 American College of Rheumatology/Arthritis Foundation Guideline for the Management of Osteoarthritis of the Hand, Hip, and Knee [published correction appears in Arthritis Rheumatol. 2021 May;73(5):799]. Arthritis Rheumatol 72(2):220-233, 2020. doi:10.1002/art.41142

  • 7. Bruyère O, Honvo G, Veronese N, et al: An updated algorithm recommendation for the management of knee osteoarthritis from the European Society for Clinical and Economic Aspects of Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases (ESCEO). Semin Arthritis Rheum 49(3):337-350, 2019. doi:10.1016/j.semarthrit.2019.04.008

  • 8. Volpi N: Chondroitin sulfate safety and quality. Molecules 12;24(8), 2019. pii: E1447. doi: 10.3390/molecules24081447

  • 9. Knudsen JF, Sokol GH: Potential glucosamine-warfarin interaction resulting in increased international normalized ratio: case report and review of the literature and MedWatch database. Pharmacotherapy 28(4):540-548, 2008. doi: 10.1592/phco.28.4.540

More Information

The following English-language resource may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of this resource.

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Drug Name Select Trade
Genicin, OptiFlex-G
Celebrex, ELYXYB
Coumadin, Jantoven
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NOTE: This is the Professional Version. CONSUMERS: View Consumer Version
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