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Health

Gout drug could reduce Covid hospital stays, new research finds – The Guardian

A cheap drug normally used to treat gout has been found to have the potential to significantly reduce hospital stays among Covid-19 patients and the need for extra oxygen.

The results of new research into colchicine conducted in Brazil come after an international trial published on Wednesday found that it reduced hospitalisations and deaths among Covid-19 patients by more than 20%.

Colchicine, which is used to treat rheumatic diseases, was hailed by researchers as having the potential to be the first oral drug to treat Covid-19 in outpatient settings in a trial funded by the government of Quebec and philanthropists.

The latest trial, funded by foundations and Brazilian authorities, suggested that the drug could lessen the body’s inflammatory response and help ward off damage to the cells lining the walls of blood vessels.

“Whatever the mechanism of action … colchicine seems to be beneficial for the treatment of hospitalised patients with Covid-19,” according to a report on the small clinical trial that appeared in the online journal RMD Open, which is published by the British Medical Journal.

The researchers added that it wasn’t associated with serious side-effects, such as heart or liver damage or immune system suppression, factors that have sometimes been linked to some other drugs used to treat Covid.

Reductions in the need for oxygen therapy and length of hospital stay were not only good for patients but they also cut healthcare costs and the need for hospital beds, they added.

However, they also expressed caution that only a small number of patients were included in the trial, and they were unable to determine if colchicine might avoid the need for intensive care or lessen the risk of death.

Brazil has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, while health workers in the country’s largest state have begging for help and oxygen supplies after a sharp increase of Covid infections.

While colchicine has been used to treat and prevent inflammatory conditions, a feature of some Covid infections, the researchers wanted to find out if using it could reduce the need for extra oxygen or lengthy stays in hospitals.

The research was carried out between April and August last year when 75 patients admitted to hospital with moderate to severe Covid-19 were randomly assigned to receive different levels of colchicine.

The results were based on 72 patients. It was found that the average length of time patients needed oxygen therapy was four days for those treated with additional colchicine, compared with 6.5 days for those who received a standard type of treatment.

The average length of hospital stay was seven days for the colchicine group compared with nine for the other group.

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