Quebec government scientists say it's too soon to recommend colchicine for COVID-19

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MONTREAL — Quebec government scientists say more research is needed before they can recommend the use of colchicine to treat COVID-19 patients.

The drug, currently used to treat gout and certain other conditions, was the subject of a study involving non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients and led by researchers at the Montreal Heart Institute, who first announced their findings in a news release Jan. 22.

The institute called the results of the study "clinically persuasive" and Dr. Jean-Claude Tardif, the study's principal investigator, suggested in an interview that doctors could start using colchicine to treat COVID-19 patients right away.

Dr. Michele de Guise, the scientific vice-president of Quebec's National Institute for Excellence in Health and Social Services, told reporters at a technical briefing today that the study's results showing a decreased risk of hospitalization or death among COVID-19 patients aren't statistically significant.

She says that while the study did show positive results, the difference between patients who received the colchicine and the control group was too small to be relied on, and she's worried about the risk of side-effects, which include pulmonary embolisms.

De Guise says that if doctors are asked to prescribe colchicine by patients, they should ensure their patients are aware of the risks and unproven benefits, adding that it should be a shared decision between the doctor and their patient.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 4, 2020.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

The Canadian Press