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Colchicine helps control pericarditis
Colchicine helps control pericarditis

Ancient drug fights heart disease

The rate of recurring pericarditis was nearly halved for those taking colchicine

A drug that was used in the time of the pharaohs for rheumatism has proven highly effective in treating recurrent bouts of pericarditis, an inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart, according to the findings of a new clinical trial. The ancient medicine, colchicine, which has also been used for centuries as an anti-inflammatory agent for acute gout, was tested against a placebo in a 240-patient pericarditis trial.

The rate of recurring pericarditis was nearly halved for those taking colchicine compared with the placebo, according to data presented on 30 March at the annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology in Washington, DC, US. The condition, which causes sharp chest pain, recurred in 42.5% of those taking dummy pills, compared with 21.6% of those who got colchicine.

Moreover, after three days of treatment, 19.2% of patients taking the drug had symptoms, compared with more than 44% of those given placebos. And those taking placebos, on average, had 0.63 recurrences, compared to 0.28 recurrences for those on colchicine.

No serious side effects were associated with the use of colchicine, researchers said, but gastrointestinal issues were reported in about 8% of patients.

The reasons for pericarditis that repeatedly recurs once the original cause has been treated are not well understood, but potential causes are infections, kidney disease, cancer and heart surgery, researchers said.

“Healthcare providers should feel confident with the use of colchicine as a first-line drug in patients with multiple recurrences of pericarditis," both for its safety and effectiveness, said Massimo Imazio, a cardiologist with Maria Vittoria Hospital in Torino, Italy, who led the trial.

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