Side effects of gout medicine colchicine cautioned against

12/03/2020 01:54 PM
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Photo taken from Pixabay for illustrative purpose
Photo taken from Pixabay for illustrative purpose

Taipei, Dec. 3 (CNA) A prescription medicine used to treat gout is suspected to have caused 10 deaths in Taiwan over the past eight years due to side effects that can sometimes be severe, Taiwan's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned Thursday.

Colchicine, which is a strong anti-inflammatory that is widely used to treat gout, has been used in Taiwan for nearly 40 years and is one of the available options for the frontline treatment of patients with gout.

A total of 17 colchicine products have been licensed by the FDA and about 38 million colchicine tablets are sold in Taiwan per year, according to the FDA.

However, between 2011 and August this year, the FDA has received a total of 353 reports suggesting adverse reactions to the drug, mostly among patients with renal and liver dysfunction, with 10 deaths believed to be linked to the problem.

Serious side effects of colchicine include blood disease, muscle weakness and neuropathy, according to Hung Kuo-teng (洪國登), head of the FDA's Medicinal Products Division, who said that patients with renal or hepatic impairment and those who also use other medicines for chronic disease could experience serious side effects from the prescription drug.

Colchicine is used to relieve the pain and swelling of an acute gout episode and people who experience acute gout attacks usually take the drug for 5-7 days. Patients with frequent acute flare-ups or chronic gout tend to use it on a long-term basis, according to Chen Ming-han (陳明翰), an attending physician at the Division of Allergy, Immunology and Rheumatology at Taipei Veterans General Hospital.

Because of the side effects, doctors tend to prescribe low-dose colchicine for patients with renal or hepatic impairment, Chen added.

Aside from colchicine, two other medications for gout -- benzbromarone and febuxostat -- might also increase the risk of side effects, Chen noted.

In Japan, Europe and America, there have been reports of patients dying of renal failure after using benzbromarone, Chen said.

(By Chang Ming-hsuan and Evelyn Kao)

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