Colchicine: 1998 update

Semin Arthritis Rheum. 1998 Aug;28(1):48-59. doi: 10.1016/s0049-0172(98)80028-0.


Objective: To present an update of the use of colchicine in patients with familial Mediterranean fever (FMF) and other rheumatic and nonrheumatic diseases.

Data sources: Published studies on colchicine retrieved from MEDLINE searches from 1987 to 1997 and reports presented at national and international meetings. STUDIES SELECTION AND EXTRACTION: All studies were reviewed by the authors. Reports addressing the topics of colchicine pharmacokinetics, biological effects, indications for use, and side effects were selected.

Data synthesis: Colchicine is an alkaloid that may interfere with microtubule formation, thereby affecting mitosis and other microtubule-dependent functions. It has a bioavailability of 25% to 50% when administered orally. Colchicine and its metabolites are excreted through the urinary and biliary tracts. It may be used while breast feeding; however, amniocentesis should be performed when used in pregnancy. The drug may be given to children with FMF. The efficacy of colchicine has been proved in FMF, gout, Behcet's disease, and cirrhosis. Its place in the treatment of scleroderma, sarcoidosis, and skin disorders remains to be determined. Gastrointestinal side effects occur early and are most common manifestations of colchicine toxicity. Severe colchicine toxicity results in multiple organ failure, convulsions, coma, and death. Potentially, effective treatment with Fab anti-colchicine antibodies unfortunately is unavailable; therefore, treatment is supportive.

Conclusions: Colchicine is a relatively safe and effective medication for several disorders when used in appropriate dosage in patients with normal kidney and liver function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Behcet Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Colchicine / adverse effects
  • Colchicine / metabolism
  • Colchicine / pharmacokinetics
  • Colchicine / therapeutic use*
  • Familial Mediterranean Fever / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Fertility / drug effects
  • Gout / drug therapy
  • Gout Suppressants / adverse effects
  • Gout Suppressants / metabolism
  • Gout Suppressants / pharmacokinetics
  • Gout Suppressants / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy


  • Gout Suppressants
  • Colchicine