By Dr. Max Gomez

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — While the coronavirus vaccine rollout is improving, hospitals around the country are still being overrun with COVID cases. That’s why experts say anything that keeps people from getting hospitalized would be a big help.

As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported Friday, there’s a new study on a drug that does just that.

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Hospitalizations and especially ICU admissions for COVID-19 is an expensive and often deadly complication of the virus.

Preventing both of those issues was the goal of the world’s largest clinical trial on COVID outpatients. The international trial, called COLCORONA, was run by Dr. Jean-Claude Tardif from the Montreal Heart Institute.

COVID VACCINE

“We were trying to prevent hospitalization from happening in the first place,” said Dr. Tardiff.

More than 4,100 patients proven to have COVID were given colchicine, a very inexpensive, FDA-cleared, powerful anti-inflammatory drug originally extracted from the autumn crocus plant and used against gout for hundreds of years.

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The theory was that its anti-inflammatory properties would work against the deadly cytokine storm in the lungs of many COVID patients.

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The trial’s advantage is that patients were prescribed and given the colchicine tablets via telemedicine – no contact needed.

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The results of the COLCORONA trial have just been posted, but not yet peer-reviewed, on a pre-print site, showing that compared to placebo patients with nasal swab confirmed COVID, colchicine resulted in:

“A 25% reduction in death or hospitalization,” said Dr. Tardiff. “And we also saw a greater than 25% [reduction] in the need for a hospitalization.”

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Even that hospitalization reduction would go a long way to ease the pressure on the health care system, especially with a readily available, inexpensive drug.

Colchine’s anti-inflammatory effect seems to work primarily in the lungs – the main cause of hospitalizations and ICU ventilation.

It’s main side effect is diarrhea in 10% to 15% of patients.

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Dr. Max Gomez