FDA approves ancient anti-inflammatory drug for heart disease

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A man undergoing a heart examination (photo: courtesy of Los Muertos Crew)

Colchicine, used as an anti-inflammatory and gout remedy for thousands of years, has now been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reduce inflammation in the cardiovascular system that leads to heart attacks and strokes. According to the media release, the FDA approved colchicine (Lodoco) for use by adults with atherosclerosis, a thickening and hardening of the arteries caused by plaque buildup inside blood vessels, the drug’s developer Agepha Pharma, said. The drug was also approved for adults with multiple risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

These high-risk patients typically take statins to lower their risk of experiencing or dying from heart disease events like heart attacks and strokes. Combination therapy with statins and colchicine can reduce the risk of dying from heart disease or having nonfatal heart attacks or strokes by 31 per cent compared with a placebo, the company said. “With colchicine, we now for the first time have access to an anti-inflammatory agent that actually works, decreasing the risk of cardiovascular events, and that is also very safe to use and affordable,” says Guillaume Marquis-Gravel, MD, an interventional cardiologist at Montreal Heart Institute and an assistant professor at the University of Montreal.

Scientists have known for decades that inflammation plays a major role in the development of atherosclerosis and its clinical consequences, including heart attacks and strokes, Marquis-Gravel said. But medicines tested specifically to fight cardiovascular inflammation haven’t panned out because they were either ineffective or came with dangerous side effects.

The FDA cleared 0.5 milligram once-daily Lodoco pills to be taken alone or in combination with cholesterol-lowering drugs like statins to attack inflammation in the cardiovascular system that leads to atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes. Colchicine was first approved by the FDA more than a decade ago as a gout treatment and is also approved for familial Mediterranean fever, an inflammatory disease that causes acute pain in the abdomen, chest, and joints.

“Colchicine is a very old drug, comes from mother nature, and was until now used for gout attacks,” said, Jan Hein Cornel, a professor of cardiology at Radboud University Medical Center in Alkmaar, the Netherlands.

“It makes sense that this ancient treatment would help prevent heart attacks and strokes because inflammation plays a role in plaques eroding or rupturing inside arteries damaged by atherosclerosis”, Cornel added. Plaques that break loose can travel through blood vessels and cut off the supply of blood to the heart or brain, causing heart attacks or strokes. “This means a tremendous step forward in the field of prevention of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease,” Cornel said.

It was reported that Agepha Pharma would go on sale in the second half of 2023.

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