“Musculoskeletal disability is the most prevalent of the major health problems of our aging population.  Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, compared with other chronic diseases, appear to make the greatest contribution to subsequent disability among the elderly.  Disease outcomes evolve over years, even decades” (ARAMIS -the national chronic disease data bank Arthritis, Rheumatism, and Aging Medical Information  System from  diverse U.S. / Canadian  locations, managed by  Stanford University Department of Medicine, California, 2003 ):

 Thus (major trauma aside)  it is a huge relief that  in aging adults, both osteoporosis spinal/limb collapse, and rheumatoid and  osteo-arthritis   can now be reversed in most cases by early  amd probably permanent  prevention and treatment with relatively lowcost and safe combination of   multiple  proven drugs, most of them natural and nutritional supplements. 

It is obvious from observation in daily practice that the nonspecific musculoarthritic stiffening of older people -including polymyalgia rheumatica-  is usually easily reversed by early replacement with antioxidants including fish oil  and  appropriate steroid   hormone replacement  HRT  according to bloodlevels – vitamin D3 and testosterone in both sexes,   plus estradiol-progesterone  in deficient women, +- lowdose prednisone.

Obviously, collapsing spine and hips incur increasing immobility  osteoarthritis and frailty;

increasing arthrits incurs increasing immobility  osteoporosis; and frailty;

and increasing vascular disease (including rheumatoid/ lupus arthritis) with worse microcirculation  incurs increasing ostoporosis, frailty  otheoarthritis, and tissue, cartilage, bone and disc ischemia.  .

But, just as gouty tophi melt away with alkalis, allopurinol and probenecid, it is gratifying to see how osteoarthritic nodules and pain gradually regress and functionality return over months,  with restoration of  youthful bone density and  articular cartilage on modest dose of anabolic glucosamine plus chondroitin, combined as always with  the safe natural anti-inflammatories and antiosteoporotic agents – the vitamins  nicotinamide, pantothenate,  pyridoxine, folic acid and B12, C, D, K; the minerals calcium magnesium boron zinc and manganese; and the biologicals  fish oil, proline, .MSM, cat’s claw, boswelia, bromelain, curcumin,  and appropriate anabolic  HRT including testosterone for both genders. 

Since daily practice is clear proof, it does not need sophisticated randomized controlled trials to prove the obvious, that

provided prevention is started before spine, bones and joints are seriously damaged,

*osteoporosis is  easily safely and cheaply preventible and curable;

*chondroglucosamine restores lost articular cartilage, as two controlled  trials (Belgium; Czech)  have shown .

And it does not take wild imagination that combining  early and permanently the above  anabolic bone-muscle- cartilage-restorative and anti-inflammatory supplements with remittive substances for inflammatory arthritis will permanently prevent disability.

So it is gratifying to find trials of both
* the benefit of chondroglucosamine on synovial retention in both humans and rats with inflammatory arthritis;  and
* The full  4 year   BeSt  (Dutch)  trial report of last month, that starting with methotrexte plus inflximab instead of methotrexte prednisone + sulfasalazine  makes negligible difference  to 4year outcome –  without the farcical costs  and potentially deadly adverse effects of infliximab. 
It is instructive that the BeSt paper did not give P  or confidence intervals in the abstract- and  the full paper confirmed  that the differences are not statistically significant.


The  BeSt paper confirms that-: starting with methotrexate in all cases,  adding one drug at a time for unresponsiveness gave much poorer result than combined therapy from the start. The  endresult after 4 years was much better if infliximab , OR prednisone + sulfasalazine, was started ab initio;. 

 BUT infliximab gave 13% neurological adverse events AEs vs 2% with preds; and more infectious deaths and more non-melanoma skin cancers with infliximab.
 In the end after 4 yrs, the overall risk:benefit in the respective groups favoured initial 

*initial mtx  + preds + SSA- 4yr totals of 4gm preds (174 pt yrs)  (and  with last resort where required) infliximab 39pt yrs;  over  
*initial mtx +  infliximab  -4yr totals  181pt yrs infliximab  and (as last resort)  0.6gm preds 28pt yrs preds .

Since preds costs about 3c/mg & the total high dose preds  averaged 1gm/yr , thats

 Prednisone about R30/yr; 

 Chloroquine about R750/patient year;

  Methotrexate perhaps R500/patient year;
  SSA around R 6000 /patient year. 

  infliximab about  R100 000/ patient year
so keeping infliximab as last resort rather than first makes major sense to both cost and survival.

David Gotlieb of the SA Arthritis group still recommends as primary therapy
“methotrexate –   hydroxychloroquine
 methotrexate –    Sulphasalazine
 Sulphasalazine – hydroxychloroquine
  methotrexate –    hydroxychloroquine – sulphasalazine.
 plus for Articular RA, my usual regimen is to start at 7.5mg per day and maintain this dose until the DMARDS take effect. This is usually at approximately 2 months. Ithen start a slow reduction – to 5mg per day for a further month to 2 months, and then 2.5mg per day. Further reduction then depends on progress. If possible, the dose is then reduced to 2.5mg alternate day, an subsequently to 2.5mg every third day.    Only then do I consider stopping the drug.
If at any step reduction, the patient becomes stiff or swollen, I maintain the previous level a further month before attempting a reduction again.
If a small maintenance dose is still required – it is almost invariably at 2.5 mg per day or less.”

The UK and USA guidelines do not recommend  early anti-TNF tumour necrosis  drugs like infliximab.   

Indomethacid has been reported to accelerate articular loss, whereas other anti-inflammatories do not slow the loss; while in one  2005 USA trial, doxycycline merely slowed the progression of OA joint narrowing by 30%.   


CONCLUSION:  all cases of arthitis  (and suspected fracture) should be seen early – within days- by a medical doctor; and osteoporosis risk also assessed; if only by ultrasound; 

if symptoms do not settle rapidly on symptomatic therapy (eg for gout, sexually transmitted disease)  and appropriate antimicrobials for possible micro-organism causes, and apprpriate HRT,

then appropriate baseline xrays and blood tests should be done, (including hormones, and  to exclude tuberculosis, STDs) ,

and appropriate anti-inflammatories and anabolics should be started:

modest initial symptom-controlling prednisone+chloroquine+ methotrexate –  R100pm.

+appropriate HRT(testosterone for all, + estradiol for women)  about               R40pm;

add       4gm cod liver oil /day                                                                    R20pm;  

+ modest natural  anti-arthritic antiosteoporotic agents  about                     R200pm


since the above supplements are also  protection against major vascular
depression, memory &  anti-infective problems,       a    total R360pm $50pm   provides wide multisystem protection. 
See the HRT  and supplement papers  below, and the recommended condition-specific supplement product information.. For specialist  internist consultation on appropriate supplements including HRT for individual circumstances, email your concise health details to info@healthspanlife.com

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