Although the industry says it has planned the blow, doctors who prescribe colchicine for all manner of inflammatory diseases are bracing for a shortage, should the drug’s effectiveness against COVID-19 be confirmed.
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“If this is true, we can expect very strong demand, and the industry may not be able to compensate at first,” anticipated Dr. Isabelle Deschênes, rheumatologist at the Haut-Richelieu Hospital.
In her practice, the specialist regularly prescribes colchicine to her patients when they are suffering from an acute attack of gout disease, a form of arthritis.
Colchicine is also used to treat pericarditis and certain skin diseases.
Now the first results of a large study conducted by the Montreal Heart Institute suggest that this tablet would also limit complications related to COVID-19.
“If the drug ends up being approved for COVID-19, it’s going to tumble very quickly. So we must already think of recommendations to identify patients for whom colchicine is the only drug that can be prescribed, ”explained Dr. Deschênes.
Still, the rheumatologist added that for most people, there are other remedies that may be used as an alternative during extreme stages of gout.
Ready to meet demand
Quebec-based pharmaceutical Pharmascience, the main manufacturer of colchicine in the country, is also reassuring.
“Even if there is no indication yet that governments want to use it, we took a risk and we have an inventory that could be able to meet Canadian demand for COVID-19,” said informs the director of government and public affairs of the company, Alain Boisvert.
“Greece has already approved colchicine for COVID-19. It is understood that there is going to be a big demand from all over the world. Hence the importance of the drug being manufactured in Canada, “continued Dr. David Goodman, President and CEO of Pharmascience.
Thus, the Montreal company does not expect a shortage, provided of course that the health community shows more discipline with colchicine than with hydroxychloroquine, at the start of the pandemic.
Boasted by the controversial French infectious disease specialist Didier Raoult, this treatment has been at the center of unprecedented enthusiasm around the world, although no serious studies have confirmed its effectiveness for the coronavirus.
Doctors have prescribed it to patients without valid grounds and hospitals have made reservations.
Consequence: Quebec health authorities had to restrict the distribution of hydroxychloroquine in the spring and people with rheumatism were deprived of it for a few weeks.
“As hydroxychloroquine works over a long period, there has been no impact on people’s health, but there has been a lot of stress in the patients,” testified Dr. Isabelle Deschênes, who hopes not to relive the same situation with colchicine.