Until recently paracetamol was considered a safe first-line pharmacological treatment for OA and lower back pain and, as a result, approximately two million prescriptions for paracetamol were dispensed each month by pharmacies in England alone. However, several recent systematic reviews and meta-analyses, and new international guidelineshave concluded that paracetamol provides minimal, if any, long-term pain relief in OA and is associated with considerable toxicity.

A UK study reviewing 1.2 million GP records also highlights the risks of long-term paracetamol use including; a 28 per cent mortality increase, 36 per cent increase in the risk of upper gastrointestinal (GI) events, 14 per cent increase in heart attacks and a 20 per cent increase in the risk of renal failure.

As Consultant Rheumatologist Dr Rod Hughes, comments: It is important now to consider a range of treatment options outside of simply prescribing paracetamol, and a holistic approach is absolutely key. Awareness of the full range of treatment options available for osteoarthritis, and the evidence to support them, is essential for effective management. One option which has shown promise in recent years is GOPO®, an anti-inflammatory compound derived from the seeds and husks of rosehips. A meta-analysis of three large, randomized controlled trials conducted using GOPO® in 287 OA patients suggest that in terms of pain relief GOPO® may be more effective than paracetamol and glucosamine.

Further studies have also shown that GOPO® may help to reduce joint stress and have long-term benefits for active individuals, possibly preventing the degeneration of cartilage and other joint tissues.“GOPO®, containing the compound galactolipid, is produced using a unique manufacturing process that maximizes the treatment’s anti-inflammatory and joint protecting properties – so if a rose-hip supplement doesn’t contain GOPO® it may not have any of the joint health benefits,” adds Dr Rod Hughes.

To reduce the burden of joint health conditions, and improve quality of life for sufferers a recent Joint Health of the Nation Report calls for the following ‘FIVE STEPS’ to be implemented:

  • Self-management
  • Tailored prevention programmes
  • Earlier intervention
  • Psychological support
  • Speed up referrals and access to treatment

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