UK Scientists Test Ibuprofen as COVID-19 Treatment

Carolyn Crist

June 04, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

Researchers in London have started a clinical trial to test whether ibuprofen helps hospitalized coronavirus patients, according to the BBC.

The trial will use "lipid ibuprofen," which is a specific formulation that dissolves ibuprofen into fat, rather than the typical pain relief tablets found in stores.

Based at King's College London and Guy's & St. Thomas' Hospital, the team believes the anti-inflammatory painkiller could treat breathing problems associated with COVID-19. They hope the drug will keep hospitalized patients off ventilators.

"We need to do a trial to show that the evidence actually matches what we expect to happen," Mitul Mehta, one of the King's College London researchers, told the BBC.

As part of the trial, which is abbreviated as LIBERATE, half of the patients will receive ibuprofen in addition to the usual standard of care for COVID-19. The goal is to evaluate how three doses of the drug affect disease progression such as lung failure and the time to mechanical ventilation in coronavirus patients. They'll also look at the length of critical care stay, the length of hospital stay and overall survival from COVID-19.

The study started last week, according to information posted on ClinicalTrials.gov. Patients with sensitivity to ibuprofen, a history of gastrointestinal bleeding, and liver, kidney and heart problems won't be included in the trial.

In mid-March, some officials expressed concerns that ibuprofen might harm people who have a mild form of the coronavirus. French Health Minister Oliver Veran said ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, could aggravate the infection. Instead, he recommended paracetamol, which is a generic term for acetaminophen used outside of the U.S.

However, the CDC, FDA and other international health groups concluded that ibuprofen is safe for coronavirus symptoms such as a fever and flu-like symptoms. Even still, some health officials recommend taking acetaminophen first since it has fewer side effects for many people. Those who have stomach ulcers, for instance, shouldn't take ibuprofen, according to the BBC.

The CDC also released an April 10 video statement on Twitter about COVID-19 and ibuprofen.

"We review the scientific literature regularly and speak to colleagues, and at the present time, there's no compelling evidence that ibuprofen and other drugs like it can make you sicker if you have COVID-19," John Brooks, chief medical officer for CDC's COVID-19 emergency response, said in the video.

Sources

BBC, "Coronavirus: Ibuprofen tested as a treatment."

ClinicalTrials.gov, "LIBERATE Trial in COVID-19."

WebMD, "Are Warnings Against NSAIDs in COVID-19 Warranted?"

CDC, "Can ibuprofen make COVID-19 worse?"

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