A recent study evaluated joint lubricants, called viscosupplements, commonly sold under names including Synvisc, Orthovisc, Euflexxa, or Supartz. These lubricating injections have been used for more than the past decade for the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee. While no one thought they would cure arthritis, they have been thought to be an effective treatment to help control the symptoms of mild to moderate arthritis. These medications have been thought to be helpful in delaying the need for knee replacement surgery.
A recent analysis combined the results of many studies that have been performed to investigate the effect of these medications. This so-called "meta-analysis" takes into account many factors to evaluate how well performed these studies were, and the results they found. Overall, the studies show that the viscosupplementation injections offer no significant benefit. The cost of the injections is not justified by the lack of benefit. Furthermore, some studies showed that the injections may make patients worse, because of possible side-effects of the injection.
I use viscosupplementation injections in my own practice, and I have patients who feel as though they are an important part of the management of their arthritis. This study will force me to look carefully at the benefit of the injections, and while for the time being I may continue to offer the injections, it will change the conversation I have with my patients when I inform them of the possible risks and benefits of viscosupplementation.
Should these injections not be offered? Should Medicare and insurance companies stop paying for the use of these injections? Share your comments below!