Colchicine and macrolides: a cohort study of the risk of adverse outcomes associated with concomitant exposure

Rheumatol Int. 2022 Dec;42(12):2253-2259. doi: 10.1007/s00296-022-05201-5. Epub 2022 Sep 14.


Colchicine is increasingly used as the number of potential indications expands. However, it also has a narrow therapeutic index that is associated with bothersome to severe side effects. When concomitantly use with medications inhibiting its metabolism, higher plasma levels will result and increase likelihood of colchicine toxicity. We conducted a cohort study using electronic health records comparing encounters with colchicine plus a macrolide and colchicine with an antibiotic non-macrolide. We assessed the relationship between the two groups using adjusted multivariate logistic regression models and the risk of rhabdomyolysis, pancytopenia, muscular weakness, heart failure, acute hepatic failure and death. 12670 patients on colchicine plus an antibiotic non-macrolide were compared to 2199 patients exposed to colchicine plus a macrolide. Patients exposed to colchicine and a macrolide were majority men (n = 1329, 60.4%) and white (n = 1485, 67.5%) in their late sixties (mean age in years 68.4, SD 15.6). Heart failure was more frequent in the colchicine plus a macrolide cohort (n = 402, 18.3%) vs the colchicine non-macrolide one (n = 1153, 9.1%) (p < 0.0001) and also had a higher mortality rate [(85 (3.87%) vs 289 (2.28%), p < 0.0001 macrolides vs non-macrolides cohorts, respectively]. When the sample was limited to individuals exposed to either clarithromycin or erythromycin and colchicine, the adjusted OR for acute hepatic failure was 2.47 (95% CI 1.04-5.91) and 2.06 for death (95% CI 1.07-3.97). There is a significant increase in the risk of hepatic failure and mortality when colchicine is concomitantly administered with a macrolide. Colchicine should not be used concomitantly with these antibiotics or should be temporarily discontinued to avoid toxic levels of colchicine.

Keywords: Colchicine; Cytochrome P-450 CYP3A inhibitors; Drug interactions; Drug-related side effects and adverse reactions; Macrolides; Risk.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects
  • Clarithromycin* / adverse effects
  • Cohort Studies
  • Colchicine / adverse effects
  • Erythromycin / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Macrolides* / adverse effects
  • Male


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Macrolides
  • Erythromycin
  • Clarithromycin
  • Colchicine