Health & Wellness

Well-Established Drug Proves an Effective COVID Treatment

A medication derived from the autumn crocus can help prevent COVID deaths 

By Caitlin Finlay


Researchers at the Montreal Heart Institute (MHI) have found that the anti-inflammatory medication colchicine is the first effective oral treatment for COVID-19 in non-hospitalized patients.

The MHI has been conducting a study since March 2020 on the efficacy of colchicine, a medication long used to treat gout, on reducing the severity of the symptoms of COVID-19. The study included 4,488 participants over the age of 40 from Canada, the United States, Europe, South Africa, and South America. Participants were those at risk for COVID-19 complications who were not hospitalized when enrolled in the study. Of the 4,488 participants, 4,159 were proven to have COVID-19 by a nasopharyngeal polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. Among those with a confirmed diagnosis, the study found that taking colchicine reduced the need for mechanical ventilation by 50%, reduced deaths by 44%, and reduced hospitalizations by 25%.

“Our research shows the efficacy of colchicine treatment in preventing the ‘cytokine storm’ phenomenon and reducing the complications associated with COVID-19,” Dr. Jean-Claude Tardif, the director of the MHI research centre and principal investigator of the COLCORANA trial, said in a statement. “We are pleased to offer the first oral medication in the world whose use could have a significant impact on public health and potentially prevent COVID-19 complications for millions of patients.”

Colchicine is an anti-inflammatory oral tablet used to treat a variety of illnesses in addition to gout. It’s a well-known and well-understood drug that’s inexpensive, easy to manufacture, and available in pharmacies with a prescription. The researchers believe that prescribing colchicine to high-risk patients upon their receiving a COVID-19 diagnosis could reduce the number of patients requiring hospitalization and reduce the load on the hospitals and health-care workers.

The study findings haven’t yet been published in a scientific journal, but given the urgency of the pandemic and the significance of the findings, the MHI chose to release a statement January 22 to alert medical professionals and the general population to the efficacy of colchicine as a treatment for COVID-19.

Photo: iStock/LianeM