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Can Colchicine be used to treat COVID-19 (coronavirus)?

Medically reviewed by Melisa Puckey, BPharm. Last updated on March 30, 2020.

Official Answer

  • Colchicine is being used in a clinical trial for patients with COVID-19 (coronavirus).
  • The trial is to find out whether short-term treatment with colchicine will reduce lung complications and the rate of death in COVID-19 patients.

What is Colchicine?

Colchicine is inexpensive medication that has been in use in the United States since 1969.

It is used for its anti-inflammatory effect on gout and it reduces attacks in familial Mediterranean fever.

How does Colchicine work in treating COVID-19?

In the clinical trial called COLCORONA colchicine is being used to reduce the excessive inflammatory reaction caused by coronavirus that may lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), organ failure and death.

If you become infected with coronavirus, your immune system sends useful immune chemicals to the affected areas of the lungs to help fight the infection, which is good because this is how you recover from an infection. However in some people there is an overreaction by the immune system called a “cytokine storm” causing too many immune messengers to be made. This means major parts of the body become very inflamed and they can not work properly. The lungs become congested which causes severe breathing problems and pneumonia. The heart, liver and kidneys can also become very inflamed which can lead to serious complications, even organ failure and death.

Colchicine will be used for its anti inflammatory effects when treating COVID-19. By reducing the excessive inflammation, it is hoped that the body’s immune system will be able to fight coronavirus, and reduce the complications of pneumonia, organ failure and death

Is Colchicine an approved medicine by the FDA?

Yes, colchicine is FDA approved for the indications of gout and familial mediterranean fever (FMF)

Colchicine may also be used for off label uses in Behçet syndrome, pseudogout and pericarditis.

What happens next?

We need to wait for the trials to be completed to find out how well colchicine works to reduce the rate of death and lung complications related to COVID-19.

The study will also be looking for any side effects or any unexpected issues that colchicine may cause in COVID-19 patients.

Bottom line

  • Colchicine is a medication that is currently being trialled to treat patients with COVID-19.
  • Colchicine is thought to decrease the ‘cytokine storm’ or inflammation that causes complications and death, in patients with COVID-19.
  • Colchicine is currently approved by FDA for gout and familial mediterranean fever and is in a clinical trial for treatment of COVID-19 illness which is caused by coronavirus.

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