LONDON: A drug normally used to treat gout could significantly reduce the risk of coronavirus patients requiring hospital treatment, a new study has suggested.
The report, by scientists at the University of Montreal in Canada, found that the anti-inflammatory treatment colchicine — which comes in pill form and costs just $0.40 per dose — reduced the risk of coronavirus patients with underlying health conditions being admitted to hospital by 25 percent.
The results “should change clinical practice,” said Dr. Jean-Claude Tardif, a lead scientist behind the research.
The study of 4,000 subjects suggested that colchicine cut the risk of death by 44 percent and the risk of patients requiring mechanical ventilation by half. However, these findings did not meet the levels required to be statistically significant because too few patients “had reached these endpoints,” Tardif said.
The drug, he said, has the potential to “prevent coronavirus complications for millions of patients.”
Colchicine is an anti-inflammatory medicine that prevents the cytokine storm phenomenon, in which the body attacks its own cells as part of its response to infection, causing severe and potentially fatal inflammation.
Martin Landray, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Oxford, told the Daily Mail newspaper that the research was “really, really exciting.”
He said: “My first response was that this looks really interesting — if it’s real and clinically meaningful.”
Colchicine is one of the drugs being studied as part of the University of Oxford’s RECOVERY trial, the world’s largest clinical trial of treatments for patients hospitalized with coronavirus.
Oxford’s own study of the potential benefits of colchicine, Landray said, is still four to six weeks away from being able to conclude whether it provided benefits to patients.
The RECOVERY trials have yielded various other useful insights into drug treatments for coronavirus.
In June last year, trials found that the drug dexamethasone, a cheap steroid available for decades, could reduce the number of patients that required ventilators by as much as 35 percent.
The trials also found that hydroxychloroquine, the drug touted by former US president Donald Trump, was ineffective at fighting the virus.