Effect of 6-week treatment with topical betamethasone dipropionate in patients with symptomatic hand osteoarthritis: A randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled trial

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Objective: To examine the efficacy and safety of topical corticosteroid over 6 weeks in patients with symptomatic hand osteoarthritis. Design: In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, community-based participants with hand osteoarthritis were randomly assigned (1:1) to topical Diprosone OV (betamethasone dipropionate 0.5 ​mg/g in optimised vehicle, n=54) or placebo (plain paraffin, n=52) ointment to painful joints 3 times daily for 6 weeks. Primary outcome was pain reduction [assessed by 100 ​mm visual analogue scale (VAS)] at 6 weeks. Secondary outcomes included changes in pain and function using the Australian Canadian Osteoarthritis Hand Index (AUSCAN), Functional Index for Hand Osteoarthritis (FIHOA), and Michigan Hand Outcomes Questionnaire (MHQ) at 6 weeks. Adverse events were recorded. Results: Of 106 participants (mean age 64.2 years, 85.9% female), 103 (97.2%) completed the study. Change in VAS at 6 weeks was similar in the Diprosone OV and placebo groups (−19.9 vs. −20.9, adjusted difference 0.6, 95% CI -8.9 to 10.2). There were no significant between-group differences in change in AUSCAN pain [adjusted difference 25.8 (−16.0 to 67.5)], AUSCAN function [21.2 (−55.0 to 97.4)], FIHOA [-0.1 (−1.7 to 1.5)], or MHQ [-1.2 (−6.0 to 3.6)]. Incidence of adverse events was 16.7% in Diprosone OV and 19.2% in placebo group. Conclusions: Topical Diprosone OV ointment, although well-tolerated, was no better than placebo in improving pain or function over 6 weeks in patient with symptomatic hand osteoarthritis. Future studies should consider examining joints with synovitis and whether delivery approaches enhancing transdermal penetration of corticosteroids into joints are effective in hand osteoarthritis. Trial registration: ACTRN 12620000599976. Registered May 22, 2020.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100382
Number of pages7
JournalOsteoarthritis and Cartilage Open
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023


  • Function
  • Hand
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Pain
  • Topical corticosteroid

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