Colchicine for acute gout

Bayden J. McKenzie, Mihir D. Wechalekar, Renea V. Johnston, Naomi Schlesinger, Rachelle Buchbinder

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: This is an updated Cochrane Review, first published in 2006 and updated in 2014. Gout is one of the most common rheumatic diseases worldwide. Despite the use of colchicine as one of the first-line therapies for the treatment of acute gout, evidence for its benefits and harms is relatively limited. OBJECTIVES: To update the available evidence of the benefits and harms of colchicine for the treatment of acute gout. SEARCH METHODS: We updated the search of CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase, and WHO ICTRP registries to 28 August 2020. We did not impose any date or language restrictions in the search. SELECTION CRITERIA: We considered published randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and quasi-randomised controlled trials (quasi-RCTs) evaluating colchicine therapy compared with another therapy (placebo or active) in acute gout; low-dose colchicine at clinically relevant doses compared with placebo was the primary comparison. The major outcomes were pain, participant global assessment of treatment success (proportion with 50% or greater decrease in pain from baseline up to 32 to 36 hours), reduction of inflammation, function of target joint, serious adverse events, total adverse events and withdrawals due to adverse events. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: We used standard methodological procedures as expected by Cochrane in this review update. MAIN RESULTS: We included four trials (803 randomised participants), including two new trials, in this updated review. One three-arm trial compared high-dose colchicine (52 participants), low-dose colchicine (74 participants) and placebo (59 participants); one trial compared high-dose colchicine with placebo (43 participants); one trial compared low-dose colchicine with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (399 participants); and one trial compared low-dose colchicine with Chuanhu anti-gout mixture (traditional Chinese Medicine compound) (176 participants). We did not identify any trials comparing colchicine to glucocorticoids (by any route). The mean age of participants ranged from 51.2 to 70 years, and trial duration from 48 hours to 12 weeks. Two trials were at low risk of bias, one was possibly susceptible to selection bias (random sequence generation), reporting bias and other bias, and one open-label trial was at high risk of performance and detection bias. For the primary comparison, low-quality evidence from one trial (103 participants, downgraded for imprecision and bias) suggests low-dose colchicine may improve treatment outcome compared to placebo with little or no increased risk of adverse events. The number of people who reported treatment success (50% or greater pain reduction) at 32 to 36 hours was slightly larger with low-dose colchicine (418 per 1000) compared with placebo (172 per 1000; risk ratio (RR) 2.43, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.05 to 5.64; absolute improvement 25% more reported success (7% more to 42% more, the 95% CIs include both a clinically important and unimportant benefit); relative change of 143% more people reported treatment success (5% more to 464% more). The incidence of total adverse events was 364 per 1000 with low-dose colchicine compared with 276 per 1000 with placebo: RR 1.32, 95% CI 0.68 to 2.56; absolute difference 9% more events with low-dose colchicine (9% fewer to 43% more, the 95% CIs include both a clinically important effect and no effect); relative change of 32% more events (32% fewer to 156% more). No participants withdrew due to adverse events or reported any serious adverse events. Pain, inflammation and function were not reported. Low-quality evidence (downgraded for imprecision and bias) from two trials (124 participants) suggests that high-dose colchicine compared to placebo may improve symptoms, but with increased risk of harms. More participants reported treatment success at 32 to 36 hours with high-dose colchicine (518 per 1000) compared with placebo (240 per 1000): RR 2.16, 95% CI 1.28 to 3.65, absolute improvement 28% (8% more to 46% more); more also had reduced inflammation at this time point with high-dose colchicine (504 per 1000) compared with placebo (48 per 1000): RR 10.50, 95% CI 1.48 to 74.38; absolute improvement 45% greater (22% greater to 68% greater); but more adverse events were reported with high-dose colchicine (829 per 1000 compared with 260 per 1000): RR 3.21, 95% CI 2.01 to 5.11, absolute difference 57% (26% more to 74% more). Pain and function were not reported. Low-quality evidence from a single trial comparing high-dose to low-dose colchicine indicates there may be little or no difference in benefit in terms of treatment success at 32 to 36 hours but more adverse events associated with the higher dose. Similarly, low-quality evidence from a single trial indicates there may also be little or no benefit of low-dose colchicine over NSAIDs in terms of treatment success and pain reduction at seven days, with a similar number of adverse events reported at four weeks follow-up. Reduction of inflammation, function of target joint and withdrawals due to adverse events were not reported in either of these trials, and pain was not reported in the high-dose versus low-dose colchicine trial. We were unable to estimate the risk of serious adverse events for most comparisons as there were few events reported in the trials. One trial (399 participants) reported three serious adverse (one in a participant receiving low-dose colchicine and two in participants receiving NSAIDs), due to reasons unrelated to the trial (low-quality evidence downgraded for bias and imprecision). AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: We found low-quality evidence that low-dose colchicine may be an effective treatment for acute gout when compared to placebo and low-quality evidence that its benefits may be similar to NSAIDs. We downgraded the evidence for bias and imprecision. While both high- and low-dose colchicine improve pain when compared to placebo, low-quality evidence suggests that high-dose (but not low-dose) colchicine may increase the number of adverse events compared to placebo, while low-quality evidence indicates that the number of adverse events may be similar with low-dose colchicine and NSAIDs. Further trials comparing colchicine to placebo or other treatment will likely have an important impact on our confidence in the effect estimates and may change the conclusions of this review. There are no trials reporting the effect of colchicine in populations with comorbidities or in comparison with other commonly used treatments, such as glucocorticoids.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD006190
Number of pages62
JournalThe Cochrane database of systematic reviews
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2021 The Cochrane Collaboration. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


  • Colchicine
  • Gout
  • Gout Suppressants
  • Pain Management


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