A new study showed that taking certain anti-inflammatory drugs for arthritis might not help and could make the disease’s effects worse.
Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, occurs when the cartilage inside a joint starts to deteriorate and the bone beneath it begins to change, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Those suffering from osteoarthritis are often prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) by their physicians to help with the inflammation and discomfort that can occur from the disease. NSAIDs typically used include naproxen, otherwise known as Aleve, as well as Ibuprofen, known as Motrin or Advil.
A group from the University of California enlisted 277 people to participate in the study. The parties suffered from moderate to severe osteoarthritis in the knee, according to the Daily Mail. The participants had also been using NSAIDs for at least one year. In addition, information was examined from 793 people who also had the disease but didn’t take the drugs.
At the beginning of the study, the group conducted MRI scans of the participants’ knees and followed up with more scans after four years had passed. They looked for evidence of inflammation and found that there were not any long-term positive effects of taking the anti-inflammatory drugs.
In addition, the inflammation of joints, as well as the quality of cartilage, was “worse at baseline in the participants taking NSAIDs, compared to the control group, and worsened at four-year follow-up,” according to a press release.
Johanna Luitjens, the study’s lead author, is a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging at the University of California San Francisco.
Luitjens pointed out a few potential reasons for the findings, noting that “the anti-inflammatory effect that normally comes from NSAIDs may not effectively prevent synovitis, with progressive degenerative change resulting in worsening of synovitis over time.” Synovitis occurs when tissue around a joint becomes inflamed.
She also pointed out that those who take the drugs might have an increased level of physical activity because their pain subsides, “which could potentially lead to worsening of synovitis, although we adjusted for physical activity in our model.”
“In this large group of participants, we were able to show that there were no protective mechanisms from NSAIDs in reducing inflammation or slowing down progression of osteoarthritis of the knee joint,” Luitjens said. “The use of NSAIDs for their anti-inflammatory function has been frequently propagated in patients with osteoarthritis in recent years and should be revisited, since a positive impact on joint inflammation could not be demonstrated.”
The study will be exhibited at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual meeting next week.
“To date, no curative therapy has been approved to cure or reduce the progression of knee osteoarthritis,” Luitjens said.
“NSAIDs are frequently used to treat pain, but it is still an open discussion of how NSAID use influences outcomes for osteoarthritis patients. In particular, the impact of NSAIDs on synovitis, or the inflammation of the membrane lining the joint, has never been analyzed using MRI-based structural biomarkers,” she added.
She also said that more research should be done to discover the anti-inflammatory effect of NSAIDs.