A cheap, widely available drug used to treat gout could help heart attack survivors live longer and healthier lives, a new study led by an Indian-origin scientist in Australia has found.
The study led by Dr Sanjay Patel from the Heart Research Institute (HRI) shows that an anti-inflammatory medication used to treat gout and combat arthritis also improves the heart health of people who have suffered a heart attack or other major heart event.
The researchers said they have proved that the widely available drug is both safe and profoundly effective in reducing local cardiac inflammation.
The discovery was made during an investigation into new treatment for acute coronary syndrome, a sudden and life-threatening condition in which the coronary blood vessel is blocked, triggering a heart attack or severe chest pain associated with unstable angina.
Patel hypothesised that the drug colchicine, with its anti-inflammatory qualities, could combat the inflammation that plays a strong role in cardiovascular disease.
HRI researchers and colleagues tested the hypothesis in 83 patients, Australian Women’s Weekly reported.
“We discovered that colchicine has a striking ability to suppress the release of these cytokines, effectively stopping inflammation in its tracks,” said Patel.
Researchers saw a rapid and significant drop in levels of interleukin-1 and interleukin-18 within the coronary arteries, as well as a drop in interleukin-6, a key downstream cytokine strongly associated with artery-thickening inflammation.
They believe the drug works by blocking the NLRP3 inflammasome, a protein complex within immune cells responsible for the production of active IL-1 and IL-18.