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Protective effects of licofelone, a 5-lipoxygenase and cyclo-oxygenase inhibitor, versus naproxen on cartilage loss in knee osteoarthritis: a first multicentre clinical trial using quantitative MRI


Objective: In a multicentre study to explore the effects of licofelone as a disease-modifying osteoarthritis drug in comparison with naproxen in patients with knee osteoarthritis (OA), using MRI and x-ray examination.

Methods: Patients with knee OA (n = 355) were randomised to receive either licofelone (200 mg twice a day) or naproxen (500 mg twice a day). MRI and x-ray examinations were performed at baseline, 6 months (MRI only), 12 and 24 months. MRI was used to assess quantitatively changes in cartilage volume, and x-ray examinations (Lyon–Schuss) to measure changes in the mean and minimum joint space width (JSW) in the medial compartment. Questionnaires probing symptoms were completed. Data were presented as intention to treat (ITT) and according to protocol (ATP).

Results: Cartilage volume loss in the global joint and medial and lateral compartments was significantly less in the licofelone than in the naproxen group for ITT at 12 and 24 months and for ATP at all times except in the medial compartment. Patients with medial meniscal extrusion had a greater loss of cartilage volume. In these patients, licofelone markedly reduced the cartilage loss for both ITT and ATP at 12 and 24 months. Although licofelone showed less reduction in the JSW than naproxen, this did not reach significance. All clinical variables were improved at 24 months (p<0.001) for both groups, with a good safety profile.

Conclusion: Licofelone and naproxen were equally effective in reducing OA symptoms; however, licofelone significantly reduced cartilage volume loss over time, thus having a protective effect in patients with knee OA. This study proves the superiority of quantitative MRI over x-ray examinations in a multicentre clinical trial.

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