This content was published in 2011. We do not recommend that you take any clinical decisions based on this information without first ensuring you have checked the latest guidance.
A: Glucosamine is used for the relief of pain and symptoms associated with osteoarthritis. Most glucosamine preparations are unlicensed and are sold as dietary supplements; therefore the quality and content varies between products.
Little information is available about the use of “natural products” for patients with renal impairment and there have been no studies looking at the use of glucosamine in such patients. Glucosamine is extensively metabolised in the liver but has some renal excretion.
Acute interstitial nephritis has been reported as a possible adverse effect of glucosamine. There have also been anecdotal reports of non-specific renal impairment and toxicity associated with glucosamine; however, causality has not been established and long-term studies have not shown changes in renal function.
Glucosamine should be used with caution in patients with renal impairment; side effects and renal function should be monitored. It is advisable to avoid glucosamine for patients with severe renal impairment and those on dialysis until more data are available.
This FAQ is taken from a “Medicines Q&A” produced by UK Medicines Information. The full document, including references, is available from www.nelm.nhs.uk (prepared March 2011)