Ibuprofen tested as new coronavirus treatment in clinical trial

3 June 2020, 06:43

Ibuprofen is being tested as a new coronavirus treatment
Ibuprofen is being tested as a new coronavirus treatment. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Ibuprofen is being tested as a coronavirus treatment after initial studies showed it may be able to prevent severe breathing problems.

Experts are assessing whether a special formulation of the cheap drug could help reduce the serious side effect seen among patients infected with the novel coronavirus.

It is hoped that the special formulation of the cheap anti-inflammatory drug, to be delivered at a certain point in illness among hospital patients, will reduce severe respiratory illness.

This could potentially lead to shorter hospital stays and fewer patients needing help in intensive care units (ICU).

In March, it was feared the drug could make symptoms worse, after a French health minister suggested that anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, could worsen the infection.

But UK health officials said there was little evidence to prove this was the case, but said to use paracetamol to treat any mild symptoms.

If a success, it could lead to less people being hospitalised and ultimately dying
If a success, it could lead to less people being hospitalised and ultimately dying. Picture: PA

Mitul Mehta, professor of neuroimaging and psychopharmacology and director of Centre for Innovative Therapeutics at Kings College London said: "It's a trial for patients with Covid-19 disease to see if giving them an anti-inflammatory drug - a specific form of ibuprofen - will reduce the respiratory problems they have."

He stressed that the trial was for hospitalised patients - not those who have mild or suspected Covid-19.

Participants will be drawn from those who are hospitalised, but not so ill they are in need of intensive care.

"And if we can reduce their symptoms at that stage we have a number of benefits: we could reduce the amount of time that someone spends in hospital - they might recover quicker and go home, that's obviously a fantastic outcome; we also might be reducing the degree of respiratory distress so that it can be managed in the hospital setting, without needing to go to ICU. And that is a fantastic outcome as well.

"Theoretically, this treatment, given at this time, should be beneficial.

"But of course, this is based on animal studies. It's based on case reports, we need to do a trial to show that the evidence actually matches what we expect to happen."

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It is hoped it could treat severe breathing problems
It is hoped it could treat severe breathing problems. Picture: PA

Prof Mehta said that animal studies into acute respiratory distress syndrome - a symptom of Covid-19 disease - shows that around 80% of animals with this condition die.

But when they are given this special formulation of ibuprofen the survival rates increase to 80%.

"This is very promising," he said. "But of course it is an animal study, so we want to translate that really compelling result into humans."

The Liberate trial is a joint effort between experts from Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, King's College London and the pharmaceutical organisation the SEEK Group.

Half of the patients enrolled in the trial will receive standard care and the other half will receive standard care plus the special ibuprofen formulation.

It is hoped that the way the drug has been formulated will reduce potential gastric side effects linked to ibuprofen.

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Early on in the pandemic, there was controversy over the use of ibuprofen after a French health minister advised against the use of it.

Scientists in Britain launched a review to assess ties to the drug and Covid-19.

The Commission on Human Medicines' expert working group concluded: "There is currently insufficient evidence to establish a link between use of ibuprofen and susceptibility to contracting Covid-19 or the worsening of its symptoms."

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