Hyaluronic acid, not very effective against knee osteoarthritis, according to a study

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Hyaluronic acid, not very effective against knee osteoarthritis, according to a study

Knee osteoarthritis affects more than 500 million people worldwide.

There is very little benefit from injecting hyaluronic acid in patients with knee osteoarthritis, according to a large study published Thursday. This adds to the growing doubts as to the interest of this treatment, which has been used for decades to reduce pain.

This work does not plead for a generalized use of the viscosupplementation to treat knee osteoarthritis, summarize the authors of the study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Knee osteoarthritis is one of the most common rheumatisms. People who suffer from it experience a deterioration of the cartilage of the knee joint, which leads to pain and difficulty in everyday life, especially in walking.

According to a report made in 2020, cited by the authors of the study, it affects more than 500 million people worldwide. Statistics Canada data shows that of the 37% of Canadians aged 20 and older who have been diagnosed with arthritis, 29% had knee pain.

For several decades, one of the main treatments has been to inject hyaluronic acid – a gel-like substance that promotes proper lubrication – into painful joints.

But the real effectiveness of this treatment, which is called viscosupplementation, is increasingly questioned. In France, Social Security stopped reimbursement a few years ago, despite opposition from specialists in these procedures, laboratories producing hyaluronic acid and patient associations.

The BMJ study goes in this direction. This is a meta-analysis, which compiles a number of previous works – here several dozen – and therefore gives a good idea of ​​the state of knowledge.

The authors admit that viscosupplementation contributes to a small decrease in pain related to knee osteoarthritis, but the effect is too small to consider that it has benefits on the clinically, especially since it is not without danger. Viscosupplementation is associated with a higher frequency of serious side effects, when compared with placebo, the authors note.

The latter, although they cannot exclude a possible interest of viscosupplementation for specific categories of patients, therefore call for it to no longer be a systematic treatment in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis.

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