The oral, anti-inflammatory drugcan prevent complications and hospitalizations in nonhospitalized patients newly diagnosed with COVID-19, according to a from the trial investigators.
After 1 month of therapy, there was a 21% risk reduction in the primary composite endpoint of death or hospitalizations that missed statistical significance, compared with placebo among 4,488 outpatients enrolled in the global, phase 3 trial.
After excluding 329 patients without a confirmatory polymerase chain reaction test, however, the use of colchicine was reported to significantly reduce hospitalizations by 25%, the need forby 50%, and deaths by 44%.
“We believe that this is a medical breakthrough. There’s no approved therapy to prevent complications of COVID-19 in outpatients, to prevent them from reaching the hospital,” lead investigator Jean-Claude Tardif, MD, from the Montreal Heart Institute, said in an interview.
“I know that several countries will be reviewing the data very rapidly and that Greece approved it today,” he said. “So this is providing hope for patients.”
Having been burned by hydroxychloroquine and other treatments brought forth without peer review, the response to the announcement was tempered by a desire for more details.
Asked for comment, Steven E. Nissen, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, was cautious. “The press release about the trial is vague and lacks details such as hazard ratios, confidence intervals, and P values,” he said in an interview.
“It is impossible to evaluate the results of this trial without these details. It is also uncertain how rigorously data were collected,” he added. “We’ll need to see the manuscript to adequately interpret the results.”
The evidence in the press release is hard to interpret, but early intervention with anti-inflammatory therapy has considerable biologic appeal in COVID, said Paul Ridker, MD, MPH, who led the pivotalof the anti-inflammatory drug in the post-MI setting, and is also chair of the ACTIV-4B trial currently investigating anticoagulants and antithrombotics in outpatient COVID-19.
“Colchicine is both inexpensive and generally well tolerated, and the apparent benefits so far reported are substantial,” Dr. Ridker, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said in an interview. “We are eager to see the full data as rapidly as possible.”
The commonly usedand rheumatic disease agent costs about 26 cents in Canada and between $4 and $6 in the United States. As previously , it reduced the time to clinical deterioration and hospital stay but not mortality in the 105-patient Greek Study in the Effects of Colchicine in COVID-19 Complications Prevention (GRECCO-19) study.
Dr. Tardif said he’s looking forward to having the data in the public domain and that they acted swiftly because the evidence was “clinically persuasive” and “the health system is congested now.”
“We received the results Friday, Jan. 22 at 5 p.m., an hour later we were in meetings with our data safety monitoring board [DSMB], 2 hours later we issued a press release, and a day later we’re submitting a full manuscript to a major scientific journal, so I don’t know if anyone has done this at this speed,” he said. “So we are actually very proud of what we did.”
ColCORONA was designed to enroll 6,000 outpatients, at least 40 years of age, who were diagnosed with COVID-19 infection within the previous 24 hours, and had a least one high-risk criterion, including age at least 70 years, body mass index of at least 30 kg/m2, diabetes mellitus,, known respiratory disease, or coronary disease, fever of at least 38.4° C within the last 48 hours, dyspnea at presentation, bicytopenia, pancytopenia, or the combination of high neutrophil count and low lymphocyte count.
Participants were randomly assigned to receive either placebo or colchicine 0.5 mg twice daily for 3 days and then once daily for another 27 days.
The number needed to prevent one COVID-19 complication is about 60 patients, Dr. Tardif said.
Colchicine was well tolerated and resulted in fewer serious adverse events than with placebo, he said.occurred more often with colchicine, but there was no increase in pneumonia. Caution should be used, however, in treating patients with severe renal disease.
Dr. Tardif said he would not prescribe colchicine to an 18-year-old COVID outpatient who doesn’t have any concomitant diseases, but would for those meeting the study protocol.
“As long as a patient appears to me to be at risk of a complication, I would prescribe it, without a doubt,” he said. “I can tell you that when we held the meeting with the DSMB Friday evening, I actually put each member on the spot and asked them: ‘If it were you – not even treating a patient, but if you had COVID today, would you take it based on the data you’ve seen?’ and all of the DSMB members said they would.
“So we’ll have that debate in the public domain when the paper is out, but I believe most physicians will use it to treat their patients.”
The trial was coordinated by the Montreal Heart Institute and funded by the government of Quebec; the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; Montreal philanthropist Sophie Desmarais; and the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and Mastercard. CGI, Dacima, and Pharmascience of Montreal were also collaborators.
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