An evaluation of colchicine as an alternative to inhaled corticosteriods in moderate asthma

James E. Fish, Stephen P. Peters, Christopher V. Chambers, Stephen J. McGeady, Kenneth R. Epstein, Homer A. Boushey, Reuben M. Cherniack, Vernon M. Chinchilli, Jeffrey M. Drazen, John V. Fahy, Suzanne S. Hurd, Elliot Israel, Stephen C. Lazarus, Robert F. Lemanske, Richard J. Martin, Elizabeth A. Mauger, Christine Sorkness, Stanley J. Szefler

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40 Scopus citations


Colchicine demonstrates an array of anti-inflammatory properties of potential relevance to asthma. However, the efficacy of colchicine as an alternative to inhaled corticosteroid therapy for asthma is unknown. Five centers participated in a controlled trial testing the hypothesis that in patients with moderate asthma needing inhaled corticosteroids for control, colchicine provides therapeutic benefit as measured by maintenance of control when inhaled steroids are discontinued. Subjects were stabilized on triamcinolane acetonide (800 μg daily) and then enrolled in a 2-wk run-in during which all subjects took both colchicine (0.6 mg/twice a day) and triamcinolone. At the end of the run-in, all subjects discontinued triamcinolone and were randomized to continued colchicine (n = 35) or placebo (n = 36) for a 6-wk double-blind treatment period. The treatment groups were similar in terms of disease severity. After corticosteroid withdrawal, 60% of colchicine-treated and 56% of placebo-treated subjects were considered treatment failures as defined by preset criteria. No significant difference in survival curves was found between treatment groups (log rank = 0.38). Other measures, including changes in FEV1, peak expiratory flow, symptoms, rescue albuterol use, and quality of life scores, also did not differ between groups. Of note, subjects failing treatment had significantly greater methacholine responsiveness at baseline than did survivors (PC20, 0.81 ± 1.38 versus 2.11 ± 2.74 mg/ml; p = 0.01). An analysis of treatment failures suggested that the criteria selected for failure reflected a clinically meaningful but safe level of deterioration. We conclude that colchicine is no better than placebo as an alternative to inhaled corticosteroids in patients with moderate asthma. Additionally, we conclude that the use of treatment failure as the primary outcome variable in an asthma clinical trial where treatment is withdrawn is feasible and safe under carefully monitored con-ditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1165-1171
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican journal of respiratory and critical care medicine
Issue number4 PART I
StatePublished - 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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