The use of anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen does not lead to higher rates of serious illness or death in people who become infected with Covid-19, according to a paper published yesterday in The Lancet Rheumatology.
Ibuprofen, commonly sold over the counter as Nurofen, is one of a group of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which are used for pain relief and in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. When Covid-19 first appeared it was suggested that infected people who were taking NSAIDs were more likely to develop a more serious form of the disease, and were more likely to die as a result.
The new study, carried out in 255 healthcare facilities in the British National Health Service, gathered data from more than 72,000 patients, making it the largest of its kind ever.
Of patients admitted to hospital, 30.4% of those who had been taking NSAIDs died. However, the figure among those who had not been taking NSAIDs was slightly higher, at 31.3%.
As well as fatalities as a result of Covid-19, the study also looked at lesser outcomes, including markers for disease severity like admission to intensive care, the need for invasive or non-invasive ventilation, the use of supplemental oxygen, or the development of acute kidney injury. Again, no significant difference was found between users of NSAIDs and non-users.
“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,” explained Professor Ewen Harrison of the University of Edinburgh, 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.”