Colchicine is used to treat and prevent gout. Find out how to take it safely and possible side effects. Colchicine is also called Colgout.
What is colchicine?
Colchicine is used to relieve pain and swelling when you have gout flares (attacks). It is also used to prevent gout attacks while starting on urate-lowering therapy such as allopurinol or febuxostat.
(RheumInfo, Canada, 2019)
Note: this video is from Canada so may have information that differs from New Zealand recommendations. In New Zealand colchicine is also called Colgout.
How does colchicine work?
Colchicine works by reducing the build-up of uric acid crystals in the affected joints and by reducing the body’s inflammatory reaction to the uric acid crystals that are in the affected joint. This reduces pain and swelling. It is usually used when other medicines for gout, like NSAIDs or steroids, cannot be used or don’t work well enough. Read more about gout and medicines for gout.
Watch a video about colchicine for gout.
Colchicine is considered a high-risk medicine because it can cause serious side effects. There isn’t a big difference between a safe dose of colchicine and a harmful dose. This means you must always take colchicine exactly as your doctor has told you to.
- In New Zealand, colchicine is available as 0.5 mg tablets.
- The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much colchicine to take, how often to take it and any special instructions.
- Never take more than the prescribed dose.
- Taking too much colchicine can cause serious side effects.
To treat a gout attack (flare)
Colchicine works best if you take it at the first sign (within 12 hours) of gout pain, redness and swelling.
To prevent gout attacks (prophylactic colchicine)
Colchicine can be used to prevent gout attacks while starting allopurinol or febuxostat. The usual dose is:
□ 1 tablet 2 times a day for 6 months.
□ 1 tablet once a day, OR
It is generally recommended you keep taking colchicine for 3–6 months after the target serum urate level has been reached by taking allopurinol or febuxostat.
How to take colchicine
- Food and drink: Swallow your tablet whole with a full glass of water. Take it with food to reduce stomach upset. Avoid drinking alcohol as it can cause stomach problems. Do not drink grapefruit juice as it increases the risk of side effects.
- Other medicines: Tell your doctor or pharmacist about all other medicines you are taking. Colchicine can be harmful when taken with some other medicines, such as antibiotics and medicines for pain relief.
Colchicine can be harmful — safety tips
Colchicine is a useful and effective treatment for gout and is usually safe. Most people who take colchicine have no problems but extra care is needed when taking it.
|Signs of taking too much colchicine|
There isn’t a big difference between a safe dose of colchicine and a harmful dose. People who are over 65 years of age are especially at risk.
If you get any of these symptoms, stop taking colchicine and contact your doctor immediately or freephone Healthline 0800 611 116.
|Store colchicine out of reach of children – as little as 1 or 2 tablets may be fatal for children.|
Precautions before taking colchicine
- Do you have problems with your kidneys, heart or liver?
- Do you have problems with your stomach or indigestion?
- Do you have any blood disorders?
- Are you pregnant, trying for a baby or breastfeeding?
- Are you taking any other medicines? This includes any medicines you buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
If so, it’s important that you tell your doctor or pharmacist before you start colchicine. Sometimes a medicine isn’t suitable for a person with certain conditions, or it can only be used with extra care.
What are the side effects of colchicine?
Colchicine can cause serious side effects, although not everyone gets them.
|Side effects||What should I do?|
|Did you know that you can report a side effect to a medicine to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product|
Colchicine may interact with a few medicines and herbal supplements, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting colchicine and before starting any new medicines.
- Spotlight on colchicine Medsafe, NZ, 2018
- Keeping patients informed about colchicine use Medsafe, NZ, 2014
- Managing gout in primary care BPAC, NZ, 2018
- Colchicine NZ Formulary
- Colchicine: painful insights from recent poisoning data in New Zealand Medsafe, NZ, 2021
Additional resources for healthcare professionals
Colchicine SafeRx, NZ, 2019