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Jay Gordon, MD Headshot

Did You Understand the Arthritis Study? I Did

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But then again, I'm a doctor and I'm supposed to.

The obfuscation was caused by the incompetence of the journalists and even bloggers who reported the story.

You were not supposed to get it . . .

Sometimes, I just don't know where to start.

How about by telling you that the lead author of the New Journal of Medicine Article about arthritis supplements, one Daniel O. Clegg, M.D, receives grants, consulting fees, lecture fees, and more from Pfizer Pharmaceuticals.

Pfizer is the maker of Celebrex.

Celebrex was the medication measured against the supplements which Dr. Clegg's article said were ineffective.

Here's a complete list of the disclosure of financial ties the study's authors have to the drug industry:

Drs. Bingham, Brandt, Clegg, Hooper, and Schnitzer report having received consulting fees or having served on advisory boards for McNeil Consumer and Specialty Pharmaceuticals. Drs. Brandt, Moskowitz, Schnitzer, and Schumacher report having received consulting fees or having served on advisory boards for Pfizer. Dr. Brandt reports having equity interests in Pfizer. Drs. Moskowitz and Weisman report having received lecture fees from Pfizer; Dr. Brandt, lecture fees from McNeil Consumer and Specialty Pharmaceuticals; Drs. Bingham, Clegg, Hooper, Jackson, Molitor, Sawitzke, and Schnitzer, grant support from Pfizer; and Dr. Bingham, grant support from McNeil Consumer and Specialty Pharmaceuticals. Dr. Brandt reports having received royalties from books related to osteoarthritis. Dr. Moskowitz reports having served as an expert consultant for Pfizer. No other potential conflict of interest relevant to this article was reported.

The doctors and scientists who conducted this study receive millions from the companies whose drugs they studied.

The makers of everything from Tylenol to Celebrex to narcotic pain killers pay these doctors money to travel to Hawaii, Europe and elsewhere to give speeches, conduct research and sit on their advisory boards. One doc even owns stock in the company.

And, the study did not draw the conclusions that the headlines highlighted!

In fact, the conclusions were simple:

People with moderate to severe arthritis pain benefited tremendously from supplements. 79% of them reported pain relief. In the placebo group, only 54% of those in moderate to severe pain got relief.

The group which did not seem to benefit were those with mild pain who showed only a slight increase in pain relief from glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. An expert in arthritis, Dr. Andrew Feldman, Chief of Sports Medicine at St. Vincent's Medical Center, New York City explains:

"You always take any study in a journal with a grain of salt. What the study does seem to show is that in the early stages of arthritis the mixture of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate doesn't seem to have a major effect. But in more aggressive arthritis it seems to have more of an effect. And in my patient population I have found very good results."

I seem to always get criticized for saying that I truly believe that doctors who do these studies are honest men with possible bias towards the companies which buy their airline tickets and pay for their research and lecture fees. I really do think they're honest but the headline writers and journalists covering this story must have lost their "Google" skills. Follow the money.

If you have arthritis, the recommended supplements, and others, have few side effects and might help you. Lose weight, exercise to tolerance and try supplements.

JNG MD