The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Colcrys to treat acute flairs in patients with gout, a recurrent and painful form of arthritis, and patients with familial Mediterranean fever (FMF), an inherited inflammatory disorder. The medication's active ingredient is colchicine, a complex compound derived from the dried seeds of a plant known as the autumn crocus or meadow saffron (Colchicum autumnale).
Colchicine has been used by healthcare practitioners for many years to treat gout but had not been approved by the FDA. The FDA has an initiative underway to bring unapproved, marketed products like colchicine under its regulatory framework. This initiative promotes the goal of assuring that all marketed drugs meet modern standards for safety, effectiveness, quality and labeling.
Physicians historically have given colchicine hourly for acute gout flares until the flare subsided or they had to stop treatment because the patient began experiencing gastrointestinal problems. A dosing study required as part of FDA approval demonstrated that one dose initially and a single additional dose after one hour was just as effective as continued hourly dosing for acute gout flares, but much less toxic. As a result, the drug is being approved for acute gout flares with the lower recommended dosing regimen.
The FDA is alerting healthcare professionals to this new dosing regimen and also warning about the potential for severe drug interactions when patients take colchicine.
The medicinal value of using colchicum was first identified in the first century A.D. and its use for treating acute gout dates back to 1810. Physicians have prescribed the medication since then. Although single-ingredient colchicine has not been approved by the FDA until now, a combination product containing colchicine and an agent that increased the excretion of uric acid in the urine was approved by the FDA in 1939.
FMF is the most common of the hereditary periodic fever syndromes and is characterized by recurrent episodes of fever, arthritis and painful inflammation of the lining layers of the lungs and abdomen. Though rare in the United States, it is more common in Mediterranean countries. Physicians have prescribed colchicine for FMF for many years based on studies showing that it reduced the frequency of attacks but use of colchicine for FMF had never been approved. With this approval, Colcrys becomes the first drug approved to treat FMF.
Colcrys is manufactured by Mutual Pharmaceutical Company, Inc., Philadelphia.