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Sports Medicine

Information on Synvisc

12/21/2006

Question:

My mother has been given a prescription by her orthopedic doctor for Synvisc. He indicated that she needed five injections. Since this is not covered by Medicare she has to pay for these very expensive injections herself. Before doing so, I wanted to research if any statistics are available about the benefits of Synvisc. when was this drug approved by the FDA? What are the side effects, if any. I read it is a series of three injections so why is doctor prescription for five? How often do you get the injections and how long does the benefit of the injections last (a month, 3 months??) Is it safe to continuously get the injections. Why is it so expensive?

Answer:

Synvisc is usually administered as a series of 3 injections into the joint space of the knee.  Occasionally, more injections can be used if the initial injections have benefit for an individual patient.  There are different formulations of hyaluronic acid that are administered every week for 5 weeks giving a total of five doses.  These injections are done once a week for 3 weeks.  If there is improvement, additional doses can be given in the future. Synvisc is used in patients with severe arthritis of the knee in an attempt to alleviate pain and allow increased activity in patients who are not candidates for knee replacement or who are trying to delay knee replacement as long as possible.  Synvisc can help some patients significantly and in others, it may not help much with symptoms.  The side effects are minimal and are related to the risks of an injection into a joint space (risk of infection and bleeding).  The material in Synvisc is not absorbed into the body.  The response of an individual patient to Synvisc is variable.  This is not a curative treatment.  Some patients feel improvement for weeks to months and others get no improvement at all.  There is no benefit to continuous injections if they are not providing benefit for longer periods of time.  As far as your questions about FDA approval and expense, this is not the type of forum that answers this type of question.  I hope this helps.

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Response by:

Charles Webster, MD
Assistant Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati