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Is Gout Becoming Big Business?

Updated on May 5, 2011
My hand just three days ago. (4-19-2011)
My hand just three days ago. (4-19-2011)

A month or two ago, I went into my pharmacy and asked for a refill of colchicine, the centuries old drug that has been used to fight gout and other maladies since the Roman times. Mike, my pharmacist, let me know that what I was getting was some of the last colchicine that was available, as the FDA was taking it off of the market. No one could understand it, but stupid is as the government does.

After a recently painful week of sore knees hands and elbows, I went into the pharmacy again, with a new script for more colchicine. What was waiting for me shocked me. Tammy, the Pharm Tech that had been delivering my drugs to me for the last 6 years told me that she tried to call to tell me that what I once paid $4.00 a bottle for was now close to $400 a bottle. She didn’t fill it ahead of time because she knew that I didn’t have that kind of scratch.

So I went home and researched it. The FDA gave some pharmacy company exclusivity to colchicine, a widely generic drug that is made from a plant in the crocus family. The reason behind it was so that this company could research the other qualities of colchicine for other ailments. In the process, they raised the price of the pills from about .09¢ a pill to nearly $5.00. Sammie, my wife, suggested I look on the Canadian market, and I found them for .42¢ a pill. It’s still a big mark-up, but not nearly as bad.

As I had mentioned before, it has been around for centuries. Colchicine has been traced back to 1500 A.D. Wikipedia states:

“Colchicine originally extracted from plants of the genus Colchicum (autumn crocus, Colchicum autumnale , also known as "meadow saffron"). It was used originally to treat rheumatic complaints, especially gout, and still finds use for these purposes today despite dosing issues concerning its toxicity. It was also prescribed for its cathartic and emetic effects. Colchicine's present medicinal use is in the treatment of gout and familial Mediterranean fever; it can also be used as initial treatment for pericarditis and preventing recurrences of the condition. It is a common medication used in the treatment of Behcet's Disease. It is also being investigated for its use as an anti-cancer drug. In neurons, axoplasmic transport is disrupted by colchicine.

Oral colchicine has been used for many years as an unapproved drug with no FDA-approved prescribing information, dosage recommendations, or drug interaction warnings. On July 29, 2009 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved colchicine as a monotherapy for the treatment of familial Mediterranean fever and acute gout flares,and gave 7-year marketing exclusivity to URL Pharma, in exchange for URL Pharma doing 2 new studies. URL Pharma raised the price from $0.09 per pill to $4.85, and sued to remove other versions from market. Colchicine in combination with probenecid has been FDA approved prior to 1982

So what are the gout sufferers to do now? I tried my other med, Indocin, and it was over $200. I got neither. I went back to the doctor and told him about the Colchicine, and he was really miffed. He could not believe that after all of this time on the market, it was given to one company to capitalize on.

For people like us, Colchicine is a God send. It can take what starts out as a bad morning where you may call out and lose a day’s pay and in as little as 1 hour, turn your symptoms off and get you functioning again.

So now I will buy from Canada, and while I am waiting for my first shipment, I am going to research the Autumn Crocus family of medicinal plants. Surely there is a health food store somewhere that carries the extract of this wonderful little lavender flower. I just have to be careful. Colchicine is just as much a poison as cyanide or arsenic, and many kids have died from it by feeding it to their pot plants then smoking the poisoned leaves.

As a teenager in Southern California, I remember a group of kids that read an article in one of the “sub-culture” magazines that spoke of using colchicine as a growth stimulant for plants. Kids from all over were stealing their dad’s meds and dissolving them into a watering solution for their pot plants. The plants would grow bigger faster, and the kids would smoke the leaves containing the concentrated colchicine poisons and quickly lapse into comas or die from it.

So now I am on some other stuff that is not quite as good, but eventually does the job…over time. I have to take this stuff every day, gout attack or not, where I took colchicine only during an attack.

Maybe I have learned something this time…hopefully. This old dog is beginning to find new tricks a bit tiresome.

But life is good, swollen joints or not. Sammie has a lifelong friend that lives down near Panama City. This girl is always full of fun with a positive outlook on life, and today Sam and I were discussing the possibilities of joining her, at least for a while. Who knows, I just might like having “fun”. I used to, but can’t remember that last time that I really had it, and then I forgot where I left it.

Until next time, my friends, be safe, be happy and start having some fun. I am!

Copyright 2011 by Del Banks


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    • Becky Puetz profile image

      Becky 6 years ago from Oklahoma

      It's ridiculous that these big drug companies can snatch much needed medication from people like you who have had it readily available so cheap for so many years and then punch up the price like that in the name of research. For people that have been using a certain medication for years and depend on it to help them, the price should remain the same. These researchers should be required to get their funding from fundraisers, research grants and private means. I'm sorry to hear about your plight, it's so unfair.