Osteoarthritis is more a question of physics than biology – two surfaces rubbing against each other over a lifetime eventually start to wear out. To find a biological cure (ie a medicine) that will stop or delay this physical decline may not be impossible, but was always going to be a major challenge. It has become the Holy Grail in the treatment of osteoarthritis. There have been pretenders along the way – Glucosamine being the leading contender, a drug that has proved to be remarkably safe, but disappointingly ineffective.
The latest candidate, Strontium, offers hope. It is a drug used in the treatment of brittle bone disease (osteoporosis) and a new study has shown promising results – a slowing of the decline of the disease on x-rays, and possibly some reduction in pain also. It certainly justifies further research, but we must not get carried away with the results of one study. It will be many years before we know whether it really works, and should be routinely recommended, or whether it will join other promising treatments that failed to live up to expectations.