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nejm-sealAs Steven Shapiro, Esq. of Ullman, Shapiro & Ullman pointed out at last week’s FDLI Food Law Regulation Workshop, an effective supplement regimen has once again been the subject of unfair media bashing despite positive study results.

Here’s what happened: on Thursday, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study entitled “Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate for Knee Osteoarthritis.” On the NEJM home page, under the study title, the “blurb” about the study reads “In this trial, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate were not more effective, alone or in combination, than placebo in controlling pain in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee.”

Immediately, the media picks up on the blurb and reports widely that the popular supplement combination has been found to be worthless. MSNBC even runs a story entitled “No hope in a bottle? Supplements lose luster after studies question claims,” that condemns the industry based on this latest study.

Meanwhile, if anyone in the media had bothered to even read the study abstract they would have seen that the results showed the glucosamine/chondroitin combination yielded a statistically significant response in patients with moderate to severe knee pain. In fact, the results with the supplement combination were better than those patients who took Celebrex!

At least one media outlet, UPI, picked up on the truth about the study. This article in Science Daily entitled “Doc defends pain supplements, slams study,” does a good job of explaining how the NEJM probably caused the slanted media coverage by mischaracterizing the study results. Did pressure from pharmaceutical companies that advertise in the NEJM cause it to report the study’s findings in the way it did?


Joel B. Rothman represents clients in intellectual property infringement litigation involving patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, defamation, trade libel, unfair competition, unfair and deceptive trade practices, and commercial matters. Joel’s litigation practice also includes significant focus on electronic discovery issues such as e-discovery management and motion practice relating to e-discovery.