Introduction:  The aim of this study was to explore the cost-effectiveness of glucosamine sulphate (GS) compared with paracetamol and placebo (PBO) in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis. For this purpose, a 6-month time horizon and a health care perspective was used.

Material and methods:  The cost and effectiveness data were derived from Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index data of the Glucosamine Unum In Die (once-a-day) Efficacy trial study by Herrero-Beaumont et al. Clinical effectiveness was converted into utility scores to allow for the computation of cost per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) For the three treatment arms Incremental Cost-Effectiveness Ratio were calculated and statistical uncertainty was explored using a bootstrap simulation.

Results:  In terms of mean utility score at baseline, 3 and 6 months, no statistically significant difference was observed between the three groups. When considering the mean utility score changes from baseline to 3 and 6 months, no difference was observed in the first case but there was a statistically significant difference from baseline to 6 months with a p-value of 0.047. When comparing GS with paracetamol, the mean baseline incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) was dominant and the mean ICER after bootstrapping was −1376 €/QALY indicating dominance (with 79% probability). When comparing GS with PBO, the mean baseline and after bootstrapping ICER were 3617.47 and 4285 €/QALY, respectively.

Conclusion:  The results of the present cost-effectiveness analysis suggested that GS is a highly cost-effective therapy alternative compared with paracetamol and PBO to treat patients diagnosed with primary knee OA.