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Colchicine is a very old drug of vegetal origin: its first use has been described for rheumatic complaints and mentioned in an old Egyptian medical papyrus, the Ebers Papyrus, dating back to 1550 BC. Colchicine has been especially prescribed for the treatment of gouty attacks: the first description of this use has been reported in De Materia Medica (latin for ‘On Medical Material’), an encyclopaedia and pharmacopoeia of herbs and the medicines that can be obtained from them, written by Pedanius Dioscorides between 50 AD and 70 AD. The plants were introduced into North America by Benjamin Franklin, who used them to treat his gout. In 1820, colchicine was isolated by the French chemists PS Pelletier and JB Caventou. In 1833, PL Geiger purified the active substance and gave it the name of colchicine. However, the active compound, a tricyclic alkaloid, was first reported in 1955 and its name was derived from Colchis, an ancient region close to the Black Sea, where plants of Colchicum were widespread (figure 1).1 ,2 In 2009, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of colchicine for familial Mediterranean fever (FMF), and the prevention and treatment of gouty attacks.
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