State of the Science

HSS Journal ®

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 159-164

First online:

Pharmacologic Management of Osteoarthritis-Related Pain in Older Adults

A Review Shows that Many Drug Therapies Provide Small-to-Modest Pain Relief
  • M. Carrington ReidAffiliated withNew York–Presbyterian HospitalWeill Cornell Medical College (WCMC) Email author 
  • , Rouzi ShengeliaAffiliated withWeill Cornell Medical College (WCMC)
  • , Samantha J. ParkerAffiliated withWeill Cornell Medical College (WCMC)Tulane University School of Medicine

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Because pain is a common and debilitating symptom of osteoarthritis in older adults, the authors reviewed data on the efficacy and safety of commonly used oral, topical, and intraarticular drug therapies in this population. A search of several databases found that most studies have focused on knee osteoarthritis and reported only short-term outcomes. Also, treatment efficacy was found to vary by drug class; the smallest effect was observed with acetaminophen and the largest with opioids and viscosupplements. Acetaminophen and topical agents had the best safety profiles, whereas oral nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs and opioids had the worst. Little data were available on patients ages 75 years old and older and on patients from diverse racial and ethnic groups. Most drug therapies gave mild-to-moderate pain relief; their long-term safety and efficacy and their effects in diverse populations (particularly older adults) remain undetermined.


Analgesia older adults osteoarthritis pain