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Semin Arthritis Rheum. 1999 Feb;28(4):211-67.

The pathobiology of osteoarthritis and the rationale for the use of pentosan polysulfate for its treatment.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, University of Sydney, The Institute of Bone and Joint Research, Royal North Shore Hospital of Sydney, St Leonards, NSW, Australia.



Structure-modifying osteoarthritis (OA) drugs (SMOADs) may be defined as agents that reverse, retard, or stabilize the underlying pathology of OA, thereby providing symptomatic relief in the long-term. The objective of this review was to evaluate the literature on sodium pentosan polysulfate (NaPPS) and calcium pentosan polysulfate (CaPPS), with respect to the pathobiology of OA to ascertain whether these agents should be classified as SMOADs.


Published studies on NaPPS and CaPPS were selected on the basis of their relevance to the known pathobiology of OA, which also was reviewed.


Both NaPPS and CaPPS exhibit a wide range of pharmacological activities. Of significance was the ability of these agents to support chondrocyte anabolic activities and attenuate catabolic events responsible for loss of components of the cartilage extracellular matrix in OA joints. Although some of the anti-catabolic activities may be mediated through direct enzyme inhibition, NaPPS and CaPPS also have been shown to enter chondrocytes and bind to promoter proteins and alter gene expression of matrix metalloproteinases and possibly other mediators. In rat models of arthritis, NaPPS and CaPPS reduced joint swelling and inflammatory mediator levels in pouch fluids. Moreover, synoviocyte biosynthesis of high-molecular-weight hyaluronan, which is diminished in OA, was normalized when these cells were incubated with NaPPS and CaPPS or after intraarticular injection of NaPPS into arthritic joints. In rabbit, canine, and ovine models of OA, NaPPS and CaPPS preserved cartilage integrity, proteoglycan synthesis, and reduced matrix metalloproteinase activity. NaPPS and CaPPS stimulated the release of tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA), superoxide dismutase, and lipases from vascular endothelium while concomitantly decreasing plasma levels of the endogenous plasminogen activator inhibitor PAI-1. The net thrombolytic and lipolytic effects exhibited by NaPPS and CaPPS may serve to improve blood flow through subchondral capillaries of OA joints and improve bone cell nutrition. In geriatric OA dogs, NaPPS and CaPPS reduced symptoms, as well as normalized their thrombolytic status, threshold for platelet activation, and plasma triglyceride levels. These hematologic parameters were shown to be abnormal in OA animals before drug treatment. Similar outcomes were observed in OA patients when CaPPS or NaPPS were given orally or parenterally in both open and double-blind trials.


The data presented in this review support the contention that NaPPS and CaPPS should be classified as SMOADs. However, additional long-term clinical studies employing methods of assessing joint structural changes will be needed to confirm this view.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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