Lack of efficacy of acetaminophen in treating symptomatic knee osteoarthritis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled comparison trial with diclofenac sodium

John P Case, Algis J Baliunas, Joel A Block
Archives of Internal Medicine 2003 January 27, 163 (2): 169-78

BACKGROUND: Recommendations state that acetaminophen should be used in preference to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in the initial treatment of symptomatic osteoarthritis (OA) of the hip or knee, because of lesser toxicity and the pervasive belief that acetaminophen is not only effective in treating OA pain but is of equal analgesic efficacy as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

METHODS: This was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of diclofenac sodium, 75 mg twice daily, vs acetaminophen, 1000 mg 4 times daily, in 82 subjects with symptomatic OA of the medial knee. Osteoarthritis was quantitated radiographically, and subjects met stringent baseline pain criteria. The primary evaluation of efficacy used the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index, with evaluations at screening, baseline, and 2 and 12 weeks after treatment. Intention-to-treat analysis was used.

RESULTS: Twenty-five subjects were randomized to diclofenac, 29 to acetaminophen, and 28 to placebo. The groups were closely matched for age, sex, body mass index, prior use of OA medications, baseline pain, and radiographic features. At 2 and 12 weeks, clinically and statistically significant (P<.001) improvements were seen in the diclofenac-treated group; however, no significant improvements were seen in the acetaminophen-treated group (P =.92 at 2 weeks and.19 at 12 weeks). Stratification of subjects according to baseline pain, prestudy OA medication, and radiographic grade showed no clear pattern of preferential response to diclofenac, and did not reveal a subset of subjects who responded to acetaminophen.

CONCLUSIONS: Diclofenac is effective in the symptomatic treatment of OA of the knee, but acetaminophen is not. A review of the literature reveals that there is scanty published evidence for a therapeutic effect of acetaminophen relative to placebo in patients with OA of the knee, because most published studies use active comparators (ie, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) only. The advocacy of acetaminophen use in subjects with OA of the knee should be reconsidered pending further placebo-controlled studies.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Related Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Save your favorite articles in one place with a free QxMD account.


Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"