Anyone who claims there is no clinical evidence backing up the effectiveness of regenerative medicine for treating musculoskeletal injuries and diseases is not paying attention. Clinical evidence is now coming in at a fairly quick rate, as evidenced by yet another study comparing PRP therapy against hyaluronic acid for the treatment of osteoarthritis.
This latest study adds significantly to the PRP-osteoarthritis discussion, explains the Advanced Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI). The study shows that PRP therapy is more effective than hyaluronic acid in some patients. Further research is needed to confirm or refute the observed results.
Equally important to the results is the actual discussion of PRP therapy as an osteoarthritis treatment. There are those in the medical community trying to shut down the discussion for reasons unknown. In so doing, they are only making things more difficult for patients desperate for relief of arthritis pain.
What the Research Found
As for the research, its results were recently published in the Arthritis Research & Therapy journal. Researchers at the Second Affiliated Hospital of Inner Mongolia Medical University in China compared both PRP and hyaluronic acid injections for treating osteoarthritis in the knee. All the patients experienced mild to moderate arthritis symptoms.
Researchers began their study in 2016 by systematically reviewing a large number of randomized clinical trials comparing hyaluronic acid and PRP therapies. They eventually focused on seven studies representing more than 900 patients. They then analyzed those studies to determine the efficacy of the two treatments. In order to score the results, the researchers relied on:
- the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index;
- the International Knee Documentation Committee;
- the Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score;
- the EuroQol Visual Analog Scale; and
- the Tegner Score.
Surprisingly, all seven studies showed that patients receiving PRP therapy reported significant improvement in pain, stiffness, and function. Five of the seven studies showed a measurable difference between PRP therapy and hyaluronic acid. The results led the researchers to conclude that PRP therapy is more effective as an osteoarthritis treatment, at least generally speaking.
A Study of Studies
One of the most significant aspects of the Chinese research lies in what the researchers actually did. They did not conduct their own clinical study comparing PRP therapy with hyaluronic acid. Rather, they analyzed other clinical studies that had already been completed, published, and peer-reviewed. Theirs was a study of studies.
Why does this matter? Because it demonstrates that clinical data is out there if people are willing to look for it. This reality needs to be injected into the discussion of whether PRP and other regenerative medicine procedures are appropriate treatments for musculoskeletal injuries. Otherwise, the discussion will continue to be mired in the false assertion that clinical data is lacking.
When critics of regenerative medicine claim a lack of clinical data, what they are really talking about is the fact that there are no FDA approved studies demonstrating efficacy. What they fail to acknowledge is the reason why such studies do not exist: FDA approval is not required for autologous PRP treatments as long as the PRP material is not manipulated in ways not allowed by current FDA regulations.
The clinical data is there, and it is growing by the year. Failing to acknowledge it does nothing to contribute to the current discussion. As a result, osteoarthritis patients are not getting the answers they deserve from medical science. Instead, they are getting conflicting messages from the critics and proponents of PRP therapy who cannot seem to agree on the ground rules of the discussion.