A large-scale study testing the safety of the anti-inflammatory colchicine in treating long-term cardiovascular disease has shown positive results. Colchicine may have substantial benefits in reducing myocardial infarction (MI) in selected high-risk populations, but its benefit in the general population have to be further studied. 

The study analyzed 39 randomized parallel-group trials (n=4,992) from a variety of different sources, including the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry, Cochrane Central Registry of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), and MEDLINE.1 The trials compared colchicine versus any control in any adult population which lasted at least 6 months.

Results showed that colchicine reduced the risk for total MIn, however this was based on only 2 studies. No significant link between colchicine and harms was discovered, though colchicine did increase the risk for gastrointestinal intolerance (RR 1.83) and was described as mild or short lived. 

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Concerning serious safety implications, the researchers found no case of effects on strokes, heart failure, emergency hospitalizations or unplanned invasive cardiac treatments. Four of the studies the researchers analyzed specifically tested serious side effects relating to colchicine, defined as life-threatening or requiring hospitalization. These studies found no instances of serious adverse effects. No serious adverse events were reported over 824 patient-years (across 4 trials), and effects on other outcomes were very uncertain. 

The researchers noted that much uncertainty still remains about the safety of colchicine following their study. It may possess benefits in reducing risk of MI in select high-risk patient groups but its effect on survival and other outcomes are still uncertain. They call for larger scale randomized clinical trials to be conducted to further investigate the safety and efficacy of colchicine as a potential heart disease treatment.


1. Hemkens LG, Ewald H, Gloy VL, et al. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Jan 27;1:CD011047. [Epub ahead of print] Review.

This article originally appeared on MPR