Osteoarthritis is a condition that afflicts large segments of the aging population. There is no cure, but some medications can help control the pain and help improve joint flexibility. The most commonly used ones are the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, but they present a risk of gastrointestinal irritation, sometimes with serious complications such as bleeding ulcers. Needless to say, there are hundreds of so-called “natural” remedies that purport to be superior to drug treatment and promise exquisite results without side effects. Not only do these compete with conventional medications, they compete ferociously with each other for the key to patients’ bank accounts. They all claim to be the only “authentic” natural treatments and they warn against “imitators.” I have been asked about my views on Joint Ease Plus, a product that was featured in a whole page ad in the Montreal Gazette featuring a headline: “Joint Pain and Stiffness Reduced by 88.2%” highlighting an article about the product written by Morton Markoff M.D. The doctor extols the virtues of this medication, which according to the ad is available exclusively from Cambridge Research Laboratories. Like in all such arthritis products, the main ingredient is glucosamine which does have research behind it, although mostly disappointing. Except in the case of severe pain, results are no better than with placebo. Marketers then try to outdo each other by introducing various other components. Essentially they look through the scientific literature for any substance that has shown any efficacy in any trial. The manufacturer of Joint Ease Plus had done diligent work in identifying anything that has potential and lumped all of these into a single pill.
In addition to glucosamine, Joint Ease Plus contains cetyl myristoleate, methyl sulfonyl methane (MSM), collagen, hyaluronic acid, bromelain, vitamin C, turmeric, quercetin and manganese. The headline that trumpets 88.2% reduction in pain and stiffness refers to a study carried out using cetyl myristoleate at an “alternative” hospital in Mexico which closed its doors last year. The researcher who supposedly was in charge seems to have vanished. In any case the study has never been published in the scientific literature and can only be found on websites promoting arthritis supplements. Now here is the kicker. The study, if indeed it was carried out, used an astounding amount of 18,000 mg of cetyl myristoleate a day, not 200 mg as in Joint Ease Plus. I tried to get some clarification about this from Cambridge Research Labs, from which supposedly the product is exclusively available. It turns out that Cambridge Research doesn’t exactly exist. Certainly not as a lab. It is the name of a Toronto based marketer who buys the product from an American manufacturer and sells it. The phone number given in the ad is that of a company that just takes mail orders. Further disappointment came when I tried to locate Dr. Morton Markoff, who wrote the glowing account of Joint Ease Plus. It took some searching but eventually I located him. Unfortunately he is six feet under and cannot comment any more. In any case he was not an M.D. as stated in the ad, but an O.D., an osteopath. It seems he had a number of run ins with the law for mail fraud and conspiracy and had to surrender his license. Of course none of this means that the product is useless. As far as I can tell there are no studies of Joint Ease Plus, comparing it with placebo or with any other treatment. Of course they have testimonials galore, but that’s par for the course for all such products. If one wanted to promote an extract of the tail feathers of black swans as an arthritis remedy, there would be no problem coming up with testimonials. There is no risk in taking Joint Ease Plus, but it is unlikely that the producers of this product have found some magic that has eluded all the other manufacturers who are in the lucrative arthritis sweepstakes. But they do promise that they will return your $150, which is what you pay for a three months supply, if you are not satisfied.