- The Recovery team announced it would test colchicine as a potential therapy for severe COVID-19 cases.
- Recovery is a massive coronavirus drug trial in the UK responsible for finding the life-saving properties of dexamethasone.
- Aside from colchicine, which is used for gout therapy, the Recovery trial is also currently studying aspirin, azithromycin, and several more drugs.
If there’s one good thing about 2020, it’s the incredible scientific effort that went into studying the novel coronavirus. Researchers have conducted all sorts of experiments to learn as much as they could about the virus. Hundreds of teams came up with vaccine ideas, dozens of which have now reached the final stage of testing. A handful of those drugs will soon be used on the general population.
Separately, dozens of existing drugs have been studied as potential COVID-19 therapies. Preventing a severe infection with the help of a vaccine only solves one part of the COVID-19 puzzle; vaccines will not work on people who are already infected and battling the illness. Doctors have done an incredible job finding ways to reduce the aggravated immune response in some patients and save more lives. And doctors have not run out of ideas on how to treat patients that experience complications.
The latest endeavor comes from a well-known UK trial. The Recovery trial has already produced results, including the finding that dexamethasone can save some patients who end up experiencing life-threatening complications. The team has recently announced it would study low-dose aspirin in COVID-19 therapy, and the newest undertaking involves colchicine, a medicine that’s already widely available and routinely used to treat gout.
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Colchicine is an anti-inflammatory drug and doctors hope it can reduce the exacerbated immune response that some patients experience. The Recovery team announced it would study the drug in a large randomized trial. The drug will be randomly given to at least 2,500 hospitalized patients, Reuters reports. 2,500 more patients will receive only standard care.
“Colchicine is an attractive drug to evaluate in the Recovery trial as it is very well understood, inexpensive, and widely available,” Oxford University Professor Peter Horby said. The doctor is the co-chief investigator for the trial. “If it works, it would be another COVID-19 treatment that could be used immediately worldwide, even in the poorest countries.”
“Inflammation plays a major role in COVID-19, and we’ve already shown that treatment with one anti-inflammatory drug, dexamethasone, can reduce deaths in the most severely ill COVID-19 patients,” professor Martin Landray said in a statement. “Colchicine is very widely used to treat gout and other inflammatory conditions such as pericarditis. By including colchicine in the RECOVERY trial, we will be able to establish whether it helps tackle the worst consequences of COVID-19.”
The researchers plan to use a dosage of 1,000 micrograms of colchicine initially, then 500 micrograms every 12 hours for a total of 10 days or until discharge. The researchers will then measure mortality rate at 28 days. They’ll also look at the impact on hospital stays and the need for ventilation. The study might need several months to deliver results, as it all depends on recruitment rates.
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Like dexamethasone, colchicine is affordable and widely available. The drug costs $124 for 30 capsules, which is much cheaper than remdesivir, one of the best-known drugs approved for COVID-19 therapy. Remdesivir can hasten recovery but it can’t save lives, with the WHO actually warning recently against the use of the experimental drug.
Dexamethasone, meanwhile, can reduce the inflammation and save the lives of people who experience a severe course of the illness, which often requires intensive care, oxygen therapy, and even mechanical ventilation.
Aside from aspirin and colchicine, the Recovery team is studying tocilizumab, another anti-inflammatory drug that showed mixed results this year — the latest study on the matter showed a lot of promise for the therapy. The Recovery trial is also assessing the efficacy of azithromycin, convalescent plasma from survivors, as well as Regeneron’s REGN-COV2 monoclonal antibody combo (casirivimab and imdevimab), which was recently approved for emergency use in the US. Previous Recovery studies include hydroxychloroquine and the anti-HIV combo lopinavir/ritonavir, but neither was found to be an effective coronavirus therapy.