Colchicine is a cheap drug that’s been around for centuries as a gout treatment. Now researchers think that it might also help after heart attacks. In one trial, colchicine reduced by as much as 34% a heart attack survivor’s combined risk of the following:
- dying from heart disease
- having cardiac arrest
- a heart attack
- a stroke
Colchicine comes from a plant called the autumn crocus.
Gout drug can help after heart attacks
The trial showed that managing inflammation is a good way to reduce cardiovascular risk. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston were thrilled. The research showed that a broadly available and relatively safe generic drug can now be used for something else too.
Patients with gout and with pericarditis (inflammation of the heart’s lining) both take colchicine to help manage the condition. That’s because both of these conditions are caused by inflammation. After a few tablets of colchicine, the pain, the warmth, the redness, and all the inflammatory signs go away.
That’s why the researchers decided to see if colchicine could help after heart attacks. The trial involved more than 4,700 heart patients. Half of the patients tool a daily low-dose colchicine tablets and the rest took a placebo. Nearly all patients also received the drug regimen normally prescribed to heart attack survivors — aspirin, blood thinners, statins and/or beta blockers.
Three years later, results showed that people on colchicine were doing better than those taking a placebo. The people on colchicine saw a 34% reduction in all adverse heart events. In addition, the trial also found that patients taking colchichine had a 74% reduction in stroke risk, and a 50% reduction in their likelihood of being rushed to hospital for angioplasty/stenting after suffering chest pain.
Is colchicine safe for after heart attacks?
The drug also appears to be safe. The most concerning side effect appears to be an increased risk of pneumonia, which affected about 1% of colchicine patients. But thanks to this research, heart doctors will be thinking long and hard about adding colchicine to the drug cocktail prescribed to heart attack patients.