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Glucosamine products are commonly used for osteoarthritis. What side effects might patients experience?

UK Medicines Information summarises the evidence for this frequently asked question: What are the adverse effects of glucosamine?

Glucosamine supplements are widely used for the relief of pain and symptoms associated with osteoarthritis. They appear to be well tolerated, with a reported frequency of adverse effects similar to that with placebo.  

Mild gastrointestinal disturbance is the most common adverse effect. Other adverse effects include headache, drowsiness, insomnia and skin reactions.

Although glucosamine should not precipitate allergic reactions in patients sensitive to shellfish, as the non-synthetic preparations are derived from the shell and not the flesh of shellfish, some sources recommend cautious use or avoidance of these products in patients at risk.

Glucosamine does not appear to adversely affect plasma blood glucose in patients without diabetes. However, data relating to its effects in patients with diabetes are lacking.

It may be wise for patients with diabetes to monitor their blood glucose levels more closely if they start to take glucosamine, increase their dose or change the product taken.

Glucosamine should be used with caution in patients with renal impairment or those taking nephrotoxic medicines.

This FAQ is taken from a “Medicines Q&A” produced by UK Medicines Information.

First published 8 October 2008, expires 30 September 2010

Citation: Clinical Pharmacist URI: 10048648

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