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Apr 24, 2014

Common Arthritis Drug Helps the Heart, Too

Study suggests that arthritis drug, colchicine, helps treat chronic heart inflammation.

A common arthritis drug may help treat heart inflammation, according to research presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session.

This study tested the use of colchicine, a common arthritis drug, as a possible treatment for pericarditis. Pericarditis occurs when the fluid-filled sac around the heart becomes inflamed, often causing chest pain and difficulty breathing. Most of the time, this condition can be resolved with rest and medication, never to return again. But for some patients, pericarditis is chronic and persists over long periods of time. Fortunately, the arthritis medication colchicine could offer some relief for patients with recurring inflammation.

A total of 240 patients with chronic heart inflammation participated in the CORP 2 trial, which was conducted at four major medical centers in Italy. In addition to receiving standard anti-inflammatory treatments, half of participants were randomly chosen to receive colchicine while the other half received an inactive pill, called a placebo, for a total of six months. During the trial period, researchers followed participants and closely monitored their heart condition.

Authors were pleased to find that after six months, colchicine was both safe and effective in treating chronic heart inflammation. Not only did half as many patients taking colchicine experience episodes of inflammation, they had fewer symptoms just three days into taking the drug. Risk of complications was also similar between both study groups, which suggests that colchicine is safe for patients with chronic heart inflammation.

Although further research is needed on the topic, colchicine may be useful in the management of patients with chronic heart inflammation. Little is known about why inflammation returns in certain patients with pericarditis and preventing future episodes is important for improving outcomes. Anywhere from 10-50% of patients diagnosed with pericarditis will experience future inflammation, which can cause heart problems down the road. Stopping chronic heart inflammation can greatly improve outcomes and with additional research, it’s possible that the arthritis drug colchicine may help do just that.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is pericarditis?
  • Pericarditis is a condition in which the fluid-filled sac around the heart becomes inflamed. In most cases, pericarditis goes away after treatment (acute pericarditis) but in some patients, pericarditis can return (chronic or recurrent pericarditis). While most cases of pericarditis are mild and may even go away on their own, some severe cases of pericarditis can be life threatening. Seeking immediate treatment for pericarditis can greatly improve outcomes.
  • What are the symptoms of pericarditis?
  • Chest pain is the most common symptom of pericarditis. Additional symptoms may include fever, chills or sweating, difficulty breathing when lying down, dry cough, fatigue, anxiety and ankle, feet or leg swelling.

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