An ancient Greek medicine derived from the saffron plant could improve the treatment of people with severe COVID-19 and reduce the mortality rate from COVID-19 up to 50%, according to a study published earlier this month in the European Journal of Internal Medicine by an Israeli researcher from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Hadassah Medical School.
According to a report in the Jerusalem Post, the drug, colchicine, dates back thousands of years to ancient Egypt, where it was known for its special healing properties. It is one of the few drugs that has survived to the present day. More recently, it has been used to treat and prevent inflammation caused by gout that can lead to painful arthritis and Familial Mediterranean Fever (FMF), which is common among Jews of North African descent.
Professor Ami Schattner has researched and analyzed all the patients who have been treated in controlled trials of this ancient medicine for the last 20 years. He found that among its uses and potential uses, colchicine also appears to be effective in treating COVID-19.
So far, four controlled trials in approximately 6.000 coronavirus patients have been published on the effect of colchicine, Schattner said, each showing a "significant improvement in severe coronavirus rates and, most importantly, a reduction in mortality of about 50%." compared to those who have not been treated with colchicine. "
The drug is cheap, needs a small dose of half a millimeter a day and has already been shown to be safe to use, he said, making colchicine "a major breakthrough that could significantly improve the morbidity and mortality of many patients, if confirmed in further studies ".
An ancient #greek drug derived from the #saffron plant could improve the treatment of people with severe # COVID19 and reduce the COVID mortality rate by as much as 50%, according to a report published earlier this month.https://t.co/44R6VajMk1
- The Jerusalem Post (@Jerusalem_Post) December 14, 2021
The side effect
The drug is also well tolerated, the doctor said. The only side effects in some patients may be diarrhea. about 10% of patients discontinue use of the drug for this reason.
The drug has been tested to treat pandemics COVID-19 worldwide, including Canada, Greece, South Africa, Spain and Brazil. Many of the tests were double-blind placebo studies, increasing the likelihood of their accuracy.
"The results have been impressive," he said.
The first reference and other uses
Colchicine was first mentioned in an ancient Egyptian papyrus dating from 1550 BC. It was later used by doctors in ancient Greece, in the Byzantine period and then by Arab doctors more than 1.000 years ago.
About 50 years ago, the use of the drug for the treatment of FMF was confirmed by researchers at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer and Hadassah, not only in the face of severe seizures related to the disease and their prevention, but also to protect from a serious complication of FMF - amyloidosis, which affects the kidneys.
More recently, several studies have begun to demonstrate its effectiveness in the treatment of acute pericarditis (swelling around the heart and in the prevention of post-cardiac injury syndrome and atrial fibrillation after cardiac surgery.
"As is well known, patients who have had a heart attack have a significantly increased risk of relapse and stroke, and these are too many patients," Schattner said. "Studies in recent years have shown that thanks to its anti-inflammatory action on the atherosclerotic layers of the arteries, colchicine in small daily doses is able to effectively protect these patients.
"The level of protection was close to preventing about half of the recurrences, and this striking beneficial effect was achieved in patients who had already undergone therapeutic catheterization and had received optimal preventive treatment with aspirin and statins," he added. "This is important news for a very large number of patients."
When can the drug be used to help patients with COVID?
Further randomized controlled trials are needed to confirm these preliminary results, according to Schattner, who believe they are likely to lead to expanding evidence of low colchicine doses. But he said there was no reason the drug could not be used at this time.
"Although initial data on the effect of colchicine on patients with coronavirus are promising, more patients should be in randomized controlled trials," Schattner said. "But that would not stop me from already using the drug in high-risk patients, to hopefully reduce their chances of developing a serious illness.
"The drug is low cost for patients and the community," he added.
"Using it on coronavirus patients, we have nothing to lose and much to gain," he said.
At the same time, however, researchers led by Dr. Kentar Gautabai Mehta of the Indian Medical College Gottri GMERS, who published the journal in the journal Rheumatology "RMD Open", evaluated (meta-analyzed) six randomized and controlled by July 2021, which involved a total of 16.148 patients with varying degrees of disease severity Covid-19. Observation studies, laboratory, in animals and with a small sample of patients (less than ten) were excluded. The analysis concluded that colchicine was not associated with any significant reduction in the risk of death, the need for intubation of patients, the risk of admission to the ICU or the duration of hospitalization, compared with those who did not take this drug. In addition, those taking colchicine were 58% more likely to have side effects in general and almost twice as likely to have diarrhea in particular.