Some relief for arthritic hands

A prescription-grade formula of an otherwise common over-the-counter remedy holds the possibility of some relief for those who suffer from osteoarthritis of the hand, reports a new study in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism. Chondroitin sulfate has long been marketed in the US as a dietary supplement, but a Swiss study of over 160 patients has found a small but significant difference in the level of pain relief experienced by those treated with the prescription-grade formula (Condrosulf), as compared to a control group treated only with a placebo.

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common ailments in this country, with approximately 30 millions sufferers, says ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. And the incidence is increasing as the population ages. To have a relatively safe product to ease the pain would mean a great deal: Unlike osteoarthritis of the hip or knee, osteoarthritis of the hand is infrequently amenable to surgical improvement, and other remedies may result in significant side effects.

ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava also acknowledges the benefit of a prescription-grade formula. As it s now sold as an unregulated dietary supplement in the U.S., the degree of purity can vary widely. The prescription-grade formulation, as used in the Swiss study, has proven to be non-toxic. And although the degree of improvement was not dramatic, any relief of pain and increase in function for such a common problem is important.