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Arch Intern Med. 2004 Oct 11;164(18):2017-23.

Efficacy and safety of a topical diclofenac solution (pennsaid) in the treatment of primary osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized, double-blind, vehicle-controlled clinical trial.

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Arizona Research & Education, Phoenix, USA.



Oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly used to relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis (OA) but can produce harmful systemic effects and end-organ damage. A topical NSAID formulation may provide symptom relief with fewer adverse effects. A new topical diclofenac sodium solution-containing the absorption enhancer dimethyl sulfoxide-was evaluated for the relief of the symptoms of primary OA of the knee.


A total of 326 patients met entry criteria (including abnormal radiographic findings and flare of pain) and were randomized to receive 40 drops of topical diclofenac solution or a vehicle-control solution, 4 times daily, for 12 weeks. We evaluated 3 primary outcome measures, the Western Ontario McMaster Universities LK3.1 OA Index (WOMAC) pain and physical function subscales and a patient global assessment, and 2 other measures, stiffness and pain on walking, at baseline and after final application. We assessed safety by evaluation of adverse events, vital signs, and irritation at the application site.


Topical diclofenac solution was significantly more effective than the vehicle-control solution for all outcome measures; pain, P = .001; physical function, P = .002; patient global assessment, P = .003; stiffness, P = .005; and pain on walking, P = .004. Among patients receiving topical diclofenac, self-limiting minor skin irritation occurred in 68 (41.5%) of 164 patients, including dryness in 60 (36.6%), rash in 18 (11.0%), and paresthesia, pruritus, and vesiculobullous rash in 1 (0.6%) each. There was no significant difference between groups in NSAID-related gastrointestinal tract complaints or in dropouts due to study-related adverse effects.


Topical diclofenac is effective in the treatment of the symptoms of primary OA of the knee, with only minor local irritation and no significant systemic adverse events.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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