A large-scale study testing the safety of the anti-inflammatory colchicine in treating long-term cardiovascular disease has shown positive results. However, given how new treatments for heart diseases are urgently needed, the researchers from the University Hospital Basel, Switzerland advised that their findings be interpreted with caution.

The study analyzed 39 randomized parallel-group trials (n=4,992) from a variety of different sources, including the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry, Cochrane Central Registry of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), and MEDLINE. The trials compared colchicine vs. any control in any adult population which lasted at least 6 months.

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Results showed that colchicine reduced the risk for total myocardial infarction, however this was based on only 2 studies. No significant link between colchicine and harms was discovered, though colchicine did increase the risk for gastrointestinal intolerance (RR 1.83). This was described in suffers as only mild or short lived. 

Concerning serious safety implications, the researchers found no case of effects on strokes, heart failure, emergency hospitalizations or unplanned invasive cardiac treatments. Four of the studies the researchers analyzed specifically tested serious side effects relating to colchicine, defined as life-threatening or requiring hospitalization. These studies found no instances of serious adverse effects. No serious adverse events were reported over 824 patient-years (across 4 trials), and effects on other outcomes were very uncertain. 

The researchers noted that much uncertainty still remains about the safety of colchicine following their study. It may possess benefits in reducing myocardial infarction in select high-risk patient groups but its effect on survival and other outcomes are still uncertain. They call for larger scale randomized clinical trials to be conducted to further investigate the safety and efficacy of colchicine as a potential heart disease treatment.

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