Prescribing Advice for GPs

An NHS Prescribing Advisers' Blog

Glucosamine linked to liver failure

According to a story in the Telegraph, glucosamine has been associated with liver failure and death of a patient in Scotland.

The article gives details of a fit and healthy man aged 64 who started top take a glucosamine supplement. Shortly after starting this medication he fell ill and died of liver failure. A Consultant Gastroenterologist who treated this patient is also aware of two other cases where patients taking glucosamine have suffered reactions.

A cause and effect cannot be demonstrated but the potential for a link between the use of glucosamine and liver failure cannot yet be dismissed and is cause for concern.

Recent guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) for osteoarthritis has advised clinicians that glucosamine supplements should not be prescribed.

Action: Clinicians should reflect on their prescribing practices for glucosamine. NICE do not recommend this treatment and it may not be free from risk.

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22 Comments to “Glucosamine linked to liver failure”

  1. I have been taking glucomine and chondroitin for several years, my last blood test showed I have fatty liver. They called it alkaline phosphate - 155, my doctor phoned me with some concern, that is why she arranged a second blood test. I have read the above comments and wanted to know would my liver function improve if I stop taking the glucosamine or is the damage done?

    Comment by Gill Dicker — November 13, 2017 #
    Reply

    1. @Gill

      If the Glucosamine supplement is the cause of the changed liver tests, stopping the pill should see the reuslt return to normal over time - it can be quick quick or maybe take a couple of months. However, there could be another cause in which case, stopping the glucosamine won't have any impact.

      Comment by Matthew Robinson — November 13, 2017 #
      Reply

  2. I was diagnosed with fatty liver 2014/15, I was shocked as I am so careful with my diet and would cut all fat away from my food. I followed a healthy varied diet.

    I took glucosamine for osteoporosis and arthritis/rheumatoid to get relief from joint pain. I took glucosamine twice a day for at least 2 - 3 years. After researching glucosamine and reading other people's reviews, I realised then that glucosamine is most likely the cause of my fatty liver and my blood results at present are still up and down. I instantly stopped taking this drug.

    What I would like to know is can I take a case against the manufactures that produce glucosamine? My health has deteriorated and the glucosomine could be one of the reasons for this.

    Comment by Trish — May 25, 2016 #
    Reply

    1. @Trish,

      You'd have to seek legal advice to assess whether you had a case and against whom you might be able to bring it. Some glucosamine is sold as a medicine while some is sold as a food supplement and there are several manufacturers so that will complicate things.

      Comment by Matthew Robinson — May 26, 2016 #
      Reply

      1. Thank you Matthew for your reply.

        I found myself searching this site yesterday and I noticed your reply. I was looking for this page so I could show my Dad as he has recently started taking Glucosomine. He is 80 years old and since showing him this page, he has decided not to continue taken GLM....

        Comment by Trish — June 29, 2016 #
        Reply

  3. I'm only 37 yrs old, just had my blood test 2 weeks ago, everything was ok except liver function just bit high. Doctor asking me if I have taken any herbal remedies which usually will cause it. Anyway my doctor say not to worry as it was just little bit high only. I told doctor I'd only taken glucosamine hydrochloride 500mg 3 times a day for the past 2 months. Now I wonder should I stop. I also happen to have asthma and high cholesterol (gd cholesterol) and a thalasemia anemia carrier. Any suggestion?

    Comment by Looveyable — July 24, 2013 #
    Reply

    1. @looveyable,

      Without being able to compare to liver test result before you started the glucosamine it's difficult to confirm the cause. Liver tests can comes bit a little outside 'normal' range and still be perfectly fine. If you haven't noticed any benefit from the glucosamine, I would suggest stopping them and having a repeat blood test in about a month. If you have noticed a benefit you might want to consider how large you feel the benefit has been and whether you would consider stopping the medication to have repeat tests done to see of the results normalise. If they do, then an even harder decision awaits, whether to restart the glucosamine or not.

      Comment by Matthew Robinson — July 24, 2013 #
      Reply

  4. I've also just had blood work done and my ALT and AST have doubled! My doctor was mystified but I did start taking glucosamine after my first round of blood work were my levels were on the normal/low side. I'm going to stop the glucosamine and I am scheduled for blood work again in early August. I'll let you all know the results.

    Comment by Kimmi — May 17, 2012 #
    Reply

  5. I have been taking glucosamine 1500mg tab now for more than two years and my doctor has been mystified at the slight rise in alt and ast blood tests. I only very occasionally take paracetamol and also take the odd diclofinac tab. When I do drink alcohol,(within the last five years anyway) always within safe limits and have far more alcohol free days than those not.
    I also have my tfts monitored and take thyroxine replacement.
    I wonder if it could be the glucosamine causing the problem?

    Comment by Barbara — July 19, 2011 #
    Reply

    1. @Barbara,

      It is a possibility and one worth exploring. Speak to your doctor first about stopping the glucosamine and see if your liver tests return to normal. Then to be even more sure you could restart the glucosamine and see if the liver tests rise for a second time. If this does happen it should be reported to your regulatory agency in your home country.

      Comment by Matthew Robinson — July 20, 2011 #
      Reply

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