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J Pharm Pharmacol. 2009 Oct;61(10):1271-80. doi: 10.1211/jpp/61.10.0002.

Quality of different chondroitin sulfate preparations in relation to their therapeutic activity.

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Department of Biologia Animale, Biological Chemistry Section, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Modena, Italy.



Chondroitin sulfate is currently recommended by the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) as a SYSADOA (symptomatic slow acting drug for osteoarthritis) in Europe in the treatment of knee and hand osteoarthritis based on research evidence and meta-analysis of numerous clinical studies. Furthermore, recent clinical trials demonstrated its possible structure-modifying effects. Chondroitin sulfate, alone or in combination with glucosamine or other ingredients, is also utilized as a nutraceutical in dietary supplements in Europe and the USA. However, it is derived from animal sources by extraction and purification processes. As a consequence, source material, manufacturing processes, the presence of contaminants and many other factors contribute to the overall biological and pharmacological actions of these agents. We aim to review the quality control of chondroitin sulfate in pharmaceutical-grade preparations and nutraceuticals.


Pharmaceutical-grade formulations of chondroitin sulfate are of high and standardized quality, purity and properties, due to the stricter regulations to which this drug is subjected by local national health institutes as regards production and characteristics. On the contrary, as several published studies available in literature indicate, the chondroitin sulfate quality of several nutraceuticals is poor. Additionally, there are no definite regulations governing the origin of the ingredients in these nutraceuticals and the origin of the ingredients in natural products is the most important factor ensuring quality, and thus safety and efficacy, in particular for chondroitin sulfate, due to its extraction from different sources.


Due to the poor chondroitin sulfate quality of some nutraceuticals, we conclude that stricter regulations regarding their quality control should be introduced to guarantee the manufacture of high quality products for nutraceutical utilization and to protect customers from low-quality, ineffective and potentially dangerous products. There is a need for specific and accurate analytical procedures, which should be enforced to confirm purity and label claims both for raw materials and finished chondroitin sulfate products, and also to govern the origin of ingredients. Until these stricter regulations are in place, then it is strongly recommended that pharmaceutical-grade chondroitin sulfate is used rather than food supplements.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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