Note to our followers: Our nearly 13-year run of daily publication of new content on came to a close at the end of 2018. Publisher Gary Schwitzer and other contributors may post new articles periodically. But all of the 6,000+ articles we have published contain lessons to help you improve your critical thinking about health care interventions. And those will be still be alive on the site for a couple of years.
Read Original Story

Strong on context, light on data: Reuters Health story on chondroitin for knee pain


3 Star


Does chondroitin trump an anti-inflammatory for arthritic knee pain?

Our Review Summary

This story does a good job putting a new study on chondroitin for knee pain in context of previous findings, informing readers that it adds to the mixed results, with some studies reporting positive results and others reporting no effect. Yet it doesn’t report on the specific findings, in quantitative terms, nor discuss potential side effects of the supplement.


Why This Matters

Treatments that reduce pain are clearly of interest to health news consumers and alternatives to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are key, as long-term use of NSAIDs can be problematic, leading to gastrointestinal bleeding and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. This story wisely makes it clear that when it comes to chondroitin supplements, the jury is still out.



Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The article makes no mention of how much pharmaceutical-grade chondroitin costs.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

Readers learn the qualitative benefits–better than placebo and on par with the analgesic drug Celebrex–but no quantitative data is cited.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story says that chondroitin is not associated with the dangerous side effects seen with NSAIDs, but we were left wondering: What were the adverse events seen with this supplement?

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?


Even though the article does not provide data about the study results, it does provide plenty of context for readers. Expert sources are quoted saying that the study was relatively small and short in duration, compared to previous similar studies. Further, sources note that findings with chondroitin and arthritic knee pain are a mixed bag, with some studies showing positive results, as this study did, and others showing no effect.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


The story does not engage in fear-mongering.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?


The story quotes two American experts, neither of whom seem to be associated with this European study. We applaud the effort to get outside perspective, but wish the article made clear if these sources do or do not have conflicts of interest with pharmaceutical companies that make any kind of arthritis pain medication.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


The story reports on a study that compared favorably with chondroitin with Celebrex, a prescription NSAID drug. The quoted sources also mention over-the-counter NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, with warning about side effects of these drugs.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The article makes clear that pharmaceutical-grade chondroitin is not the same as the labeled supplement one might buy over-the-counter, but makes no mention of how else to obtain it. Can doctors prescribe it? And do patients need a prescription to obtain it? Is there a brand name associated with the high-grade formulation?

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


With the help of one of the outside sources, the article makes clear that pain-relieving effects of chondroitin have been studied previously. This fact makes us wonder whether this study should have been covered at all. We might guess that pharmaceutical-grade aspect of the supplement is the novelty, but readers should not be left guessing.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


The article does not appear to rely on a news release.

Total Score: 6 of 10 Satisfactory


Please note, comments are no longer published through this website. All previously made comments are still archived and available for viewing through select posts.