Joint Forces: Glucosamine found to enhance pain reliever

Glucosamine, a supplement used for arthritis and joint pain, boosts the pain relieving power of ibuprofen, according to a new study by Temple University researchers. They say the combination could allow patients to take a lower dose and get the same pain relief with fewer unwanted side effects.

Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID. NSAIDs, which also include aspirin, are quite effective in relieving pain. They are so effective, in fact, that pain sufferers sometimes take higher and higher doses in hope of more pain relief. High doses of NSAIDs, especially when taken over long periods of time, can cause gastrointestinal upset, such as heartburn, or even bleeding.

“Combining pain relievers into one pill can increase patient compliance, simplify prescribing and improve efficacy without increasing side effects, or conversely, decrease side effects without losing efficacy,” said one researcher.

Glucosamine, a naturally occurring substance in the body, which is also available over the counter, is used to treat osteoarthritis, a painful, degenerative joint disorder. While it has been shown to prevent and repair bone and cartilage damage, researchers have yet to demonstrate that glucosamine actually blocks pain.

It’s believed that any pain-relieving properties of glucosamine are a side effect of its ability to repair bone and cartilage damage. The researchers found that, when glucosamine was combined with aspirin or acetaminophen, the result was subadditive, or less than the sum of each drug’s properties. But when combined with ibuprofen, the researchers found pain relief was enhanced and therefore synergistic.

Temple University, Jan 7, 2004