The Australian Rheumatology Association has played down media reports that it has issued a new safety warning urging people to stop taking glucosamine for osteoarthritis.
In a statement issued in conjunction with Arthritis Australia, the ARA says media reports about advice against using glucosamine appear to be based on a recent update to American College of Rheumatology guidelines that include a strong recommendation against the use of glucosamine for OA on the basis that it lacks evidence of efficacy.
The new ACR recommendation supersedes a longstanding conditional recommendation against the use of glucosamine for osteoarthritis but does not cite new safety concerns.
Media reports have also focused on the potential for adverse effects with glucosamine based on a 2019 review that noted reports of allergic side effects particularly in people with shellfish allergy.
The paper noted that 43 of the 366 glucosamine related adverse drug reactions reported to the Therapeutic Goods Administration between 2000-2011, were classified as severe, possibly related to the known risks of glucosamine in those with shellfish allergy.
“This highlights a valid concern but the number of adverse events needs to be considered in the context of the many hundreds of thousands of people who took glucosamine during that period,” the ARA states.
“This suggests that severe adverse reactions are very uncommon.”
The ARA notes that many other osteoarthritis treatment guidelines make conditional recommendations against the use of glucosamine on the basis that it probably does not help, including The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners guideline for the management knee and hip OA.
“This information highlights growing evidence that glucosamine does not help people with osteoarthritis and is a reminder that people with shellfish allergy should not take glucosamine (which is commonly derived from shellfish). It does not identify any new safety concerns and should not cause undue alarm in people already taking glucosamine.”