Those popular joint-pain supplements? They don’t work.

An analysis of 10 studies involving more than 3,800 people has found that glucosamine and chondroitin supplements for joint pain are ineffective either alone or in combination.

Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements have been popular for years among people with arthritic knees or hips. According to the authors of the study, worldwide sales of the supplements reached almost $2 billion in 2008. Previous studies on whether the drugs work to relieve arthritis pain, however, have been conflicting. A study publishedearlier this year from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that people who took the supplements for two years had outcomes similar to people who took the prescription pain medication celecoxib or placebo pills.

The new analysis included 10 large, randomized, controlled studies. Researchers concluded that people taking the supplements did not differ from those taking a placebo on measures of pain or any changes in joint space.

The supplements don’t appear harmful, the authors note. But if people begin to feel better while taking them it could be due to the placebo effect or just the natural healing of joints over time.

“We see no harm in having patients continue these preparations as long as they perceive a benefit and cover the costs of treatment themselves,” the authors wrote.

The study appears Friday in the British Medical Journal.

-- Shari Roan / Los Angeles Times

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