COVID-19: Ibuprofen does not increase risk of death or severe disease © Getty Images

COVID-19: Ibuprofen does not increase risk of death or severe disease

Scientists studied over 72,000 people in the UK who had been admitted to hospital with COVID-19.

Taking ibuprofen does not increase risk of severe disease or death among patients who have been admitted to hospital with COVID-19, research suggests.

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Scientists have found that using ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – which are common treatments for acute pain – is safe and does not result in worse COVID-19 outcomes.

The findings, published in The Lancet Rheumatology, are based on an observational study of more than 72,000 people in the UK – the largest study of its kind.

Early on in the pandemic, there was controversy over the use of ibuprofen after a French health minister advised against the use of it, leading scientists in Britain to review ties to the drug and COVID-19. The scientists are now recommending that clinicians continue to prescribe and manage NSAIDs in the same way as before the pandemic began.

“NSAIDs are commonly used to treat people all over the world for a range of conditions, from minor aches and pains to chronic conditions such as arthritis and cardiovascular disease,” said Professor Ewen Harrison, from the University of Edinburgh and lead author of the study.

“Many people rely on them to be able to carry out their day-to-day activities. When the pandemic began over a year ago, we needed to be sure that these common medications would not lead to worse outcomes in people with COVID-19.

“We now have clear evidence that NSAIDs are safe to use in patients with COVID-19, which should provide reassurance to both clinicians and patients that they can continue to be used in the same way as before the pandemic began.”

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The ISARIC CCP-UK (International Severe Acute Respiratory and emerging Infection Consortium Clinical Characterisation Protocol United Kingdom) study, looked at 72,179 patients admitted to hospitals across England, Scotland and Wales between January and August 2020. Of them, 5.8 per cent (4,211) had taken NSAIDs within 14 days prior to hospital admission.

Results showed that a third of patients (30.4 per cent) who had taken NSAIDs before being admitted to hospital with COVID-19 died. This rate of mortality was similar (31.3 per cent) in patients who had not taken NSAIDs, the researchers said.

Modelling analysis also suggested that those who took NSAIDs were no more likely to be admitted to critical care, need invasive or non-invasive ventilation, or require oxygen.

The researchers said their study represents 60 per cent of patients in the UK admitted to hospital over the course of the research and did not include those with severe COVID-19 who were not in hospital.

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They added ibuprofen is the most commonly used NSAID in the UK, so it is unclear whether their results can apply to other countries where other NSAIDs are more frequently used.

What are ibuprofen tablets made of?

Medical tablets are made from much more that just the active compound. Other ingredients are required to give the tablet volume, colour and to make sure the manufacturing process runs smoothly.

Silicon dioxide

This is added during the manufacturing process to help the various powders that make the tablet flow nicely together.

Lactose

This is used in many tablets, including aspirin and paracetamol, to bulk them out.

Ibuprofen

The active ingredient only makes up 200mg of a standard tablet.

Sodium lauryl sulphate

A detergent that crops up in many household products, including shampoo and toothpaste. In tablets it is used as a lubricant to stop the various ingredients sticking to manufacturing equipment.

Titanium dioxide

This turns up in a lot of products, from tablets to sunscreen to paint. It is used as a white pigment.

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