Can Osteo Bi-Flex help my arthritis?
Osteo Bi-Flex is a supplement you can buy without a prescription. It claims to improve joint health, promote mobility, help renew cartilage, and lubricate joints. There is little evidence to support these claims. At best, you could expect this product to ease pain a little.
Osteo Bi-Flex appears to contain chondroitin and glucosamine. It also has other compounds the company calls “Joint Shield,” including an extract of Boswellia serrata.
I could find no evidence to support the claims that the “joint shield” ingredients improve joint health.
Studies have looked at chondroitin and glucosamine in the treatment of arthritis and joint pain. Most studies have looked at the sulfate form of glucosamine. (Osteo Bi-flex does not contain this form. It contains glucosamine HCL.) Some researchers think the “sulfate” part is important, and that it may be more effective than other forms of glucosamine.
A large research study was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. It included more than 1500 people with osteoarthritis of the knee. They were given one of the following:
- A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)
- Glucosamine and condroitin (either alone or together)
- A placebo (a substance with no medical effect; sometimes called a “sugar” pill)
Researchers found that only the NSAID showed significant pain relief compared to the placebo. Overall, there were no significant differences between the placebo and the glucosamine-chondroitin (either together or alone).
A small group of people in the study had moderate to severe pain. In this group, the glucosamine-chondroitin did provide some reduction in pain. But glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate (together or alone) was no better than the placebo in slowing joint damage and the loss of cartilage.
There is other research that suggests that glucosamine reduces the knee pain of osteoarthritis about as well as acetaminophen (Tylenol).
I don’t think Osteo Bi-Flex can slow down joint damage or help rebuild cartilage. Personally, I would not spend my money on this product, based on the current scientific information.
I’m humbled and honored to have been asked to be a representative and advocate for the Osteo Bi-Flex brand as they celebrate 20 years of commitment to providing products that support joint comfort, mobility and flexibility.* This brand consistently ranks among the top pharmacist-recommended brands for joint health.¹
I remember graduating from pharmacy school in the mid-1990s and just beginning to hear about the research and benefits of using glucosamine and chondroitin. Most patients who asked about these ingredients were being sent to me by local doctors.
Over time I developed a good deal of comfort recommending the Osteo Bi-Flex brand. Back in those days. it was called Osteo Bi-Flex 450, and you had to take 2 tablets 3 times daily. My recommendation would be for patients to use the full recommended daily dosage, and to give it a fair trial of at least 6 weeks. Many patients became loyal customers and told me that they could feel the improvement in joint comfort once they had given the product a try over a period of time.
Of course, not every patient was an appropriate candidate for supplementation with Osteo Bi-Flex at that time. For example, we would screen patients for shellfish allergies (glucosamine is derived from marine shellfish). Also, patients on blood thinners were told to keep an eye on their INR and diabetic patients were told to monitor for any changes in blood sugar.
What I like most about the Osteo Bi-Flex brand is that they listen to their patients. Early on the tablet size of the product was challenging for some patients, and the dosing was not always convenient. Today, the brand has significantly reduced the tablet size for their Ease product, developed once-daily products and even have a formulation of gummies and powder for easier swallowing.
Another thing that Osteo Bi-Flex has done is to keep up with the latest research in supplements for joint comfort.* A number of their current products include the proprietary Joint Shield™ 5-Loxin® Advanced. This is a compound from the Boswellia serrata tree containing a boswellic acid that helps with occasional joint flare-ups.* It shows improved joint comfort in as few as 7 days.*†
Just recently I was able to speak with Pamela Walker, VP of product management with Osteo Bi-Flex. She has been with the brand since it was launched back in 1997. She talked with me about some of the very practical issues they have faced over the years while continually trying to improve their product and respond to the great feedback they were getting from their customers.
“We were very concerned about tablet size, and found ways to make the product easier to swallow. We also focused on convenience by developing a double-strength, and then triple-strength version,” she said. Both the double and triple strength formulas refer to the level of the key ingredients in each individual tablet to make it easier for patients to take.”
Personally, I love seeing patients able to enjoy the quality of life they long for and having the freedom to move more easily. I’m happy and honored to help promote a product and company that feels the same way. I’m impressed by the marketing integrity of the Osteo Bi-Flex brand as well. They avoid making claims that are not supportable by evidence and are as passionate about matching the right patient to the right product as I am as a pharmacist.
Osteo Bi-Flex has other ways they support patients as well. People can sign up on their website to receive newsletters and information about promotions. Additionally, they have an Ambassador’s Club program that provides savings coupons based on purchases. For more information, visit their website here.
I want to wish a very happy 20th birthday to the Osteo Bi-Flex brand. May you continue to enjoy many successful years in the future. Your #MadeToMove focus shows your commitment to the patients you serve and I wish you the very best.
I am a spokesperson for the Osteo Bi-Flex brand and have received compensation as part of the partnership, however, I assure that the content is factual and all opinions are my own.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Individual results may vary.
†Based on 2 human studies with 5-LOXIN® Advanced where subjects rated their joint health over time, subjects’ joint health improved within 7 days, and continued to improve throughout the duration of the studies.
Supplements for osteoarthritis treatment may offer some relief
The product: All sorts of painkillers can offer comfort to people with arthritis, but none of them can give new life to worn-out joints. If you’ve squandered your personal supply of cartilage in your knees or hips, a truckload of Aleve won’t bring it back. For decades, arthritis experts and patients have looked for remedies that do more than mask the pain.
This quest has turned glucosamine and chondroitin into superstars of the supplement industry. With U.S. sales about $1 billion annually, the compounds have a popularity to rival just about any prescription drug. Sold separately or together, they’re available at drug stores, grocery stores and health food stores everywhere.
Glucosamine and chondroitin are natural substances — types of sugars, actually — that are abundant in human cartilage. Chondroitin is a complex substance that helps hold cartilage together. Glucosamine is a simpler compound that the body sometimes uses to make more chondroitin.
Once scientists discovered these substances, it didn’t take a huge leap of logic to speculate that the pair might help treat or prevent osteoarthritis, the wear-and-tear variety of joint trouble that comes with age.
Anyone who wants to take glucosamine and chondroitin has plenty of options. Move Free Advanced Triple Strength tablets includes 1,500 milligrams of glucosamine and 200 milligramsof chondroitin. Take two tablets a day as directed, and you can expect to pay about $20 or more for a one-month supply. Osteo Bi-Flex combines 1,500 milligrams of glucosamine with 1,250 milligrams of a blend of chondroitin and MSM, another natural compound that the company says eases joint pain. At a recommended dose of three caplets a day, you can pay about $30 a month. Flexicose, a liquid supplement, contains 1,500 milligrams of glucosamine and a smattering of chondroitin and other ingredients per dose. You’d pay about $30 monthly.
Though glucosamine and chondroitin can be cooked up in a lab, most supplements use animal sources. Osteo Bi-Flex, for example, contains glucosamine from crustaceans (crabs, shrimp and crayfish) and chondroitin from cow cartilage.
The claims: Glucosamine and chondroitin are often promoted as safe, natural and effective alternatives for arthritis relief. The website for Osteo Bi-Flex claims that glucosamine and chondroitin are clinically proven to “improve joint health, comfort, range of motion and mobility.” The Flexicose site says that the product will “help you get your life back because it works fantastically. Most users notice a significant drop in discomfort in only one to two weeks.” The site also contends that Flexicose has a “whopping 98% success rate.”
The bottom line: Dr. Tim McAlindon, chairman of rheumatology at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, used to see real potential in glucosamine and chondroitin supplements. He even said so in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. in 2000. But after a series of disappointing results in well-designed studies, McAlindon says, he has “grown more and more skeptical.” “I no longer suggest that my patients even try these products. They don’t work.”
Some glucosamine/chondroitin studies over the years have had positive results, but McAlindon isn’t convinced. That’s because as a rule, he says, the investigations that showed benefits were funded by supplement companies. Independent studies generally suggest that glucosamine and chondroitin have little to no effect on arthritis.
The largest independent study, known as Glucosamine/chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial, or GAIT, wasn’t exactly a triumph. Researchers at the University of Utah tested the supplements on more than 1,500 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. Each patient received either 1,500 milligrams of glucosamine, 1,200 milligrams of chondroitin, a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin, 200 milligrams of the pain reliever Celebrex or a placebo. Pills were taken every day for six months.
As reported in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2006, glucosamine and chondroitin worked no better than placebos overall, although the combination did seem to help patients in the most pain. Nearly 80% of these patients reported some improvement, compared with 50% of patients taking a placebo.
Although the current scientific evidence is far from convincing, glucosamine supplements — but not chondroitin — might still be worth a try, says Dr. Scott Zashin, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and a member of the American College of Rheumatology.
“I think some patients do experience benefits,” he says. He recommends 1,500 milligrams of glucosamine a day for those who want to try it. “I tell them to try it for a few months to see if they feel better.”
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