A medicine that was used by the ancient Egyptians is finding a new use for heart inflammation. Colchicine is derived from crocuses, and the pharaohs were using it to treat sore, swollen joints. In modern times, it has been used to ease the pain of gout.
A new randomized controlled trial has found that its anti-inflammatory power is also effective against pericarditis. This inflammation surrounding the heart may be triggered by infection or a heart attack. In the study, 240 people who had recurrent pericarditis were randomly assigned to receive either colchicine or a look-alike placebo. The cardinal symptom of searing chest pain recurred in 22 percent of those on colchicine, compared to 42 percent of those taking a placebo. About 10 percent of those in the placebo group had to be hospitalized, compared to 1.7 percent of those getting colchicine.
The medication caused digestive distress in some patients, but no serious side effects appeared in this study. Previous research has shown that some drugs interact with colchicine to increase the possibility of dangerous reactions.
[American College of Cardiology, March 28, 2014 Washington, DC]