Colchicine is very selective and effective in its ability to relieve the pain and swelling seen with acute attacks of gout but not with other types of arthritis. It is also used to prevent attacks in individuals afflicted with frequent and recurrent episodes of gout. Colchicine use has declined and has been replaced by less toxic drugs, such as Benemid, which increases the elimination of uric acid in the urine, and Zyloprim, which reduces uric acid synthesis in the body.
Combating the "Disease of Kings." Gout has long been considered a "disease of kings," or at least of the very wealthy, because of their overindulgence in rich foods and alcohol. (It has now been downgraded to a middle-class disease.) Among the many famous gout sufferers were King Henry VIII, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther, Charles Darwin, and Benjamin Franklin. Franklin used Colchicum extract while serving as the Ambassador to France (1776–1785) and introduced the drug to his fellow Americans. He also offered the following sage advice: "Be temperate in wine, in eating, girls, and cloth, or the Gout will seize you and plague you both."