Anti-inflammatory drug used to treat GOUT will be tested as a treatment for Covid-19 in Oxford trial

  • RECOVERY trial is run by the University of Oxford and investigates Covid drugs 
  • Trial previously discounted the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine 
  • Also found the steroid dexamethasone is effective at reducing chance of death 
  • Colchicine in an anti-inflammatory drug that is used to treat gout 

A drug used to treat gout is being investigated to see if it can treat Covid-19 in hospitalised patients. 

Anti-inflammatory treatment colchicine has been added to the list of the drugs being tested as part of the RECOVERY trial, run by the University of Oxford.  

RECOVERY is the world's largest clinical trial of treatments for patients hospitalised with Covid-19.No drugs are currently able to cure Covid-19, although the trial did discover the steroid dexamethasone can reduce the risk of death among the most seriously ill. 

RECOVERY was also the study that found that hydroxychloroquine – an anti-malarial drug touted by Donald Trump - was ineffective at fighting the coronavirus.  

Colchicine has a wide range of anti-inflammatory effects and has been used for centuries to treat gout and, more recently, other inflammatory conditions. It will now feature in the RECOVERY trial

Colchicine has a wide range of anti-inflammatory effects and has been used for centuries to treat gout and, more recently, other inflammatory conditions. It will now feature in the RECOVERY trial 

'Colchicine is an attractive drug to evaluate in the RECOVERY trial as it is very well understood, inexpensive and widely available,' said Oxford University Professor Peter Horby, who is co-chief investigator for the trial.

'Inflammation (caused by an over-active immune system) is a key component of severe COVID-19, and can lead to lung damage, the need for mechanical ventilation, and death. 

'Colchicine has a wide range of anti-inflammatory effects and has been used for centuries to treat gout and, more recently, other inflammatory conditions.'

Around 2,500 patients hospitalised with Covid-19 in the UK will be given the drug and compared to 2,500 patients who do not receive the treatment.  

An initial dose of 1,000 micrograms will be followed up with 500 micrograms every 12 hours for ten days. The researchers are primarily focused on seeing if the gout treatment reduces the chance of death after 28 days.  


More than 12,000 coronavirus patients in the UK have already volunteered to take part in a drug trial run by the University of Oxford to find treatments for Covid-19.

The programme is called the RECOVERY Trial (The Randomised Evaluation of COV-id19 thERapY) and is the one of the world's biggest randomised trials, meaning it compares experimental therapy to normal 'standard of care'.

The trial got the support of Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and doctors around the country when it launched.

Volunteers have since joined the trial from more than 160 NHS trusts around the country and scientists are hopeful more people will continue to sign up if they become seriously ill with Covid-19.  

Drugs assessed so far include low-dose Dexamethasone,a steroid used to reduce inflammation; azithromycin, a commonly used antibiotic which may have antiviral properties; the steroid Tocilizumab; anti-inflammatory Colchicine used to treat gout; aspirin; convalescent plasma; and the Regeneron antibody cocktail.

It also  ruled there was 'no clinical benefit' to anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine or the HIV treatment combination of lopinavir-ritonavir.

RECOVERY announced in June that dexamethasone had been successful in the trial and that it could cut the risk of dying by a third for seriously ill patients.

A total of 2,104 patients were randomised to receive 6mg of dexamethasone once a day, either by mouth or by intravenous injection for 10 days.

Their outcomes were compared with 4,321 patients given standard care alone, which involves painkillers and, in some cases, antibiotics.

For patients on ventilators, the drug cut the risk of death from 40 per cent to 28 per cent (30 per cent reduction). In patients who required oxygen, the risk was reduced from a quarter to a fifth.

Professor Martin Landray, from the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford, who co-leads the RECOVERY trial, says: '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. 

'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.’

Colchicine costs about $124 for 30 capsules on the website.

The RECOVERY trial is ongoing at around 176 hospitals in the UK, where the recovery of patients is compared to those who do not receive the drugs.   

Another treatment in the trial is tocilizumab. A recent study found patients given the drug were 87 per cent more likely to see their symptoms improve within 28 days than patients not given the drug. 

Tocilizumab, manufactured by the Swiss drug giant Roche, is an anti-inflammatory drug typically given to people with rheumatoid arthritis.

It works in coronavirus patients by stopping the potentially fatal 'cytokine storm' — an overreaction of the immune system causing inflammation.

It is hoped colchicine will work in the same way, and therefore allow people to recover from severe bouts of disease. 

Other RECOVERY targets are aspirin and convalescent plasma, which is donated from recovered patients 

Results published in June revealed Dexamethasone, a cheap steroid that has been around for decades, could reduce the number of patients needing ventilators by 35 per cent. 

The findings were hailed at the time by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as being 'the biggest breakthrough yet' in the fight against the pandemic. 

The Oxford academics also are investigating the effectiveness of a therapy called REGN-COV2 made by the American biotechnology company Regeneron.

This is the first tailor-made Covid-19 therapy to enter a major trial and was what was used to treat Donald Trump. 

REGN-COV2 is made using antibodies – disease-fighting substances produced naturally by the immune system – found in genetically-engineered mice and in actual Covid-19 patients who have recovered from the disease.

Scientists hope the therapy will give people the same ability to fend off the disease as survivors. 

RECOVERY has also been integral in helping understand which drugs are not able to fight Covid-19. 

For example, as well as hydroxychloroquine, it ruled out the HIV drug combination lopinavir-ritonavir as a potential treatment.

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