A medicine generally used to treat gout—colchicine—has been found to significantly improve the rates of survival for patients who are hospitalized with deteriorating heart failure.
A study by researchers at the University of Virginia Health System found the medication can cut the risk of stroke and heart attack in hospitalized patients who have an accumulation of cholesterol in their arteries.Read More »
Researchers analyzed the records of more than 1,000 patients who were admitted to the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville between March 2011 and February 2020 for worsening heart failure. They found that the survival rate for patients who had been administered colchicine for gout during that time was 97.9%. The survival rate for those not receiving colchicine was 93.5%.
The benefits that were shown with the use of colchicine in the patients that were studied was “very impressive,” says Dr. Kenneth Bilchick, professor of cardiovascular medicine and a clinical investigator at the University of Virginia. He adds that he expects these findings to have a major impact on clinical care when treating patients with heart failure as well as in future research on patients who have that condition.
Heart failure takes place when the body fails to pump an adequate amount of blood through the body. About 6 million Americans suffer from heart failure, according to the American Heart Association. The condition causes some 86,000 deaths a year.
Other processes involved
Heart failure is more than simply a failure of the heart to function properly, explains Dr. Sula Mazimba, a researcher at the University of Virginia School of Medicine who specializes in heart failure. Other processes are involved, particularly when hospitalized patients are going through an acute phase and are suffering from high levels of inflammation and neuro-hormones that are released into the blood.
Many medications target the neuro-hormones, Mazimba says, but few, if any, are aimed at reducing the inflammation. The gout medication colchicine has anti-inflammatory properties that could reduce the increased amounts of inflammation that are seen in patients who are hospitalized suffering from heart failure.
Suffer from gout as well
Patients who have heart failure often suffer from gout as well. Gout is a form of arthritis that is caused by an increase in uric acid crystals in a person’s joints. Patients suffering from gout are usually treated with anti-inflammatory drugs including colchicine as well as steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, known as NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and aspirin.
Typically NSAIDs are not given to patients suffering from heart failure as they are believed to make symptoms of heart failure even worse.
Colchicine, however, does not fall under the same category as NSAIDs. The researchers at the University of Virginia who conducted the study believe that colchicine might regulate inflammation in the blood vessels as well as in the heart. It therefore has the potential to improve the patient’s chances of recovery, particularly when the heart failure is acute in hospitalized patients.
Further studies needed
The researchers say that further studies are needed to study colchicine as a treatment for heart failure, but they are encouraged by their initial findings.
The findings are exciting, particularly because colchicine is already widely available as a medication, says Mary E. Roth, a researcher and clinical pharmacist at the University of Virginia Health Center. If more studies confirm these results, colchicine could become another tool that doctors can use to boost the survival rate of patients suffering from heart failure, she adds.
The studies are published in the journal Clinical Cardiology.