Covid: Is Colchicine a promising treatment against the virus?

Published by Laurent P. · Published on 25 January 2021 at 19h21 · Updated on 26 January 2021 at 16h03
According to a study carried out by Montreal Heart Institute, Colchicine – a medicine usually used to cure gout – is said to be effective against Coronavirus, according to results from a clinical trial conducted in March 2020. But results should be taken with a pinch of salt as they are not available to be peer-reviewed by the scientific community excluding 329 patients in the 4,488 raising serious questions.

Could Colchicine be THE miracle cure to reduce Covid mortality, or is it, like hydroxychloroquine, only smoke and mirrors? A question raised by the scientific committee as Montreal Heart Institute publishes – on Saturday January 23 – a release on the effectiveness of this treatment against severe forms of coronavirus. The problem is that data from the clinical trial led in March 2020 are not available to every scientist wishing to check results, as they have only been suggested in a press release. Another problem: 329 participants in the clinical trial have been excluded from the study without explanation in the 4,488 patients first given by the institute.

For the record, in March 2020, Montreal Heart Institute (MHI) leads a study, called ColCorona, focusing on a treatment said to be effective against the disease. “We are pleased to offer the first oral medication in the world whose use could have a significant impact on public health” the study main author, Jean-Claude Tardif, says. This is Colchicine, “a powerful anti-inflammatory with a good safety profile already used for the treatment of goutQuebec university hospital microbiologist-infectious disease specialist and clinical trial associate Guy Boivin explains.

A molecule also known to cure chondrocalcinosis, a disease that translates into the calcification of joint, as well as other – and rare – infections such as Familial Mediterranean Fever and Becet’s disease.

What did the March 2020’s clinical trial consisted in? It has bene led in 4,488 patients in the United-States, South Africa, Spain, Canada, and Brazil. A study that included two groups, one given Colchicine as treatment, the other given placebo, the whole being double-blinded (patients, nor doctors knew who got what).

According to the press release issued this Saturday by the Institute, “colchicine has reduced by 21% the risk of death or hospitalizations in patients with COVID-19 compared to placebo”. In the 4,159 patients who tested positive to the virus, via PCR, “colchicine reduced hospitalizations by 25%, the need for mechanical ventilation by 50%, and deaths by 44%” the study explains.

Works are yet not enough to prove the effectiveness of the treatment. Moreover, no data on volunteers’ profiles – to check if the medicine was effective or if there is another reason that could have originated these results. Anyway, Montreal Heart Institute has told Le Parisien that they will soon publish a release as it is being “drawn up” and therefore soon available to be read by scientists.

Please also note that according to the French Society of Pharmacology and Therapeutics (SFPT), “27 studies in the world showing the effectiveness of colchicine” are going on, Le Parisien says. Among these studies, two have been released, one in Colombia, the other in Greece and have issued encouraging results, but in a too small share of participants. Additional trials are expected to confirm or deny these results.

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