Colchicine: COVID wonder drug? Or just bad science?
Since the early months of the pandemic, researchers have been investigating the effects of repurposing already available drugs for the treatment of COVID-19.
Protease inhibitors, reverse transcription inhibitors, baricitinib, and camostat mesylate have all been studied for potential repurposing, with varying results. Earlier this year, the authors of the international Colcorona study generated much fanfare when they purported to add another drug – colchicine – to the list.
Respondents to the Colcorona study have criticised it as “another example of bad science through press release during the COVID-19 pandemic,” citing the fact that neither mortality nor hospitalisation due to COVID-19 were “statistically different” between recipients of colchicine and those who received a placebo. This may seem in stark contrast to the aforementioned statistics provided by the study’s authors, but these were in fact derived from the difference between the two groups – colchicine and a placebo – in terms of the study’s primary endpoint (death or hospitalisation due to COVID-19 infection in the 30 days following randomisation), which were 4.7% and 5.8% respectively.
The study’s authors have issued responses to the many questions generated by their findings, claiming that, in the context of the pandemic where no therapy is currently available to prevent hospitalisations, the benefits of a safe, inexpensive and orally administered medication are clinically important: “The consistency of the results for the composite primary endpoint, its components and the secondary endpoints for both the overall population and that with PCR-confirmed COVID is clinically persuasive in our opinion.” They also noted the results of a prevs trial which found that there may be “a role for colchicine in the treatment of patients with coronavirus disease 2019.”
The way forward
There can be no denying the urgent need for therapeutics targeting COVID-19. Statistically, even a moderate reduction in the number of serious cases, i.e. those requiring hospitalisation or ventilation, could lead to thousands of lives being saved, not to mention an appreciable reduction in the load placed on medical care systems. The results of the Colcorona study, however, are contested.
At LGC, we are dedicated to supporting science for a safer world. Never in recent history has this been a more public cause than in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through our Toronto Research Chemicals portfolio, we supply an extensive range of products designed to support researchers working to discover potential repurposing strategies to target COVID-19. Our range of colchicine products includes high-quality intermediates, impurities, metabolites, and stable labelled isotopes, and our custom synthesis solution allows for the development of new synthetic routes to support your research, whatever your goals.
LGC – science for a safer world.