Giving aspirin to critically ill Covid patients does not increase their chances of surviving the disease, a major study revealed today.
Scientists at the University of Oxford hoped the cheap blood thinner would work because it reduces the risk of blood clots — a common and deadly complication of the virus.
But the results of the RECOVERY study — one of the world’s leading investigations into coronavirus drugs — have disproved the theory.
Professor Peter Horby, one of the lead researchers, also said there was no evidence that an infected patient was less likely to need a ventilator after taking aspirin.
Professor Horby, an infectious disease expert at Oxford, claimed there was a ‘small increase’ in the chances of patients being discharged alive.
But he said that “this does not appear to be enough to justify its widespread use for patients hospitalized with Covid.”
The RECOVERY trial was one of the most successful for finding treatments, proving that dexamethasone reduces the risk of death. The £5 steroid is now credited with saving hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide.
The RECOVERY study hoped the low-cost drug would increase survival in Covid-19 patients, who are more likely to develop blood clots, especially in the lungs (stock image)
But the trial found ‘no evidence’ that aspirin reduced the number of deaths or the likelihood of invasive medical ventilation (Pictured: Edward Wilsher, 84, in hospital with coronavirus in Newcastle earlier this year)
The researchers had hoped that aspirin might work by reducing the risk of patients developing dangerous blood clots.
Joint Principal Investigator Professor Martin Landray said: ‘There is a strong suggestion that blood clotting may be responsible for worsening lung function and death in patients with severe Covid.
Drugs proven to work in the fight against Covid
Budesonide is a medication usually taken through an inhaler to treat asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
A study by the University of Oxford in April found that in two weeks, 32% of people recovered from Covid when they took the drug through an inhaler, compared with 22% without.
Budesonide is a corticosteroid, meaning it reduces swelling in the body and helps control immune responses.
In the lungs, swelling can make breathing difficult and cause coughing. Budesonide can open the airways to relieve these symptoms.
It costs about £15 for one inhaler.
Dexamethasone was the first drug found to reduce the death rate among patients hospitalized with Covid.
A study by the RECOVERY group found that the low-cost steroid dexamethasone can prevent death in one in eight ventilated coronavirus patients and one in 25 on respiratory support.
The steroid prevents the release of substances in the body that cause inflammation, making breathing difficult in Covid patients.
The drug is most commonly used to treat ulcerative colitis, arthritis, and some types of cancer.
It is given as an injection or as a daily tablet and costs £5 per patient.
A RECOVERY study found that the arthritis drug tocilizumab reduced the risk of death by an additional four percent, on top of the 20 to 35 percent reduction given by dexamethasone.
A study by the University of Oxford and the NHS found that the arthritis drug tocilizumab cuts the risk of dying from Covid in half when taken with dexamethasone.
This means that one extra life can be saved for every 25 people who receive the drug.
It was also found to reduce time in hospital by five days.
The anti-inflammatory drug is usually used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and similar conditions.
In Covid patients, it prevents a reaction in the lungs and airways that leads to breathing problems.
It is given to patients by injection into the veins and lasts four weeks at a time.
A typical dose of 480mg costs £614.40.
“Aspirin is cheap and widely used in other diseases to reduce the risk of blood clots, so it’s disappointing that it hasn’t had a major impact for these patients.
‘That’s why large randomized trials are so important – to determine which treatments work and which don’t.’
The trial — which was a randomized trial of potential treatments for hospitalized Covid patients — gave 7,351 patients a 150 mg aspirin tablet every day between November and March.
It also monitored 7,541 participants who were hospitalized with Covid and who did not receive the drug – the control group.
The researchers found “no evidence” that aspirin reduced mortality, as 17 percent of people died in both groups and there was no apparent reduction in the aspirin group.
Patients were monitored at 176 hospital sites and died within 28 days of hospital admission.
But patients who received aspirin stayed in the hospital “slightly less” than those who didn’t — an average of eight days instead of nine, the study found.
There was also a slight increase in the likelihood of patients being discharged alive within 28 days if they received the drug — 75 percent compared to 74 percent in those who didn’t take it.
In a blow to the team’s theory, giving aspirin didn’t seem to have much of a benefit for blood clotting risk. Only six fewer patients per 1,000 developed blood clots, while six more per 1,000 experienced major bleeding than the control group.
Professor Horby said this was not significant as aspirin is known to prevent clots by thinning blood and bleeding is a known risk factor.
The RECOVERY trial is ongoing and is continuously trying new treatments for patients with coronavirus.
Professor Horby told MailOnline that RECOVERY plans to publish its results on an artificial antibody cocktail within the next few weeks.
The team is also still enrolling patients in a trial of baricitinib, dimethyl fumarate, and higher-dose steroids.
Professor Anthony Gordon, a researcher at Imperial College London who was not involved in the trial, said testing drugs such as aspirin to prevent blood clots and improve survival in Covid patients was “very sensible”.
The results are “disappointing, but it’s very important to know” that aspirin patients hospitalized with the virus do not benefit, he said.
“It highlights why all treatments, no matter how widely used in other fields, should be tested in robust clinical trials,” said Professor Gordon.
There were no major safety concerns, so the separate REMAP-CAP study — involving 15 countries — continues to evaluate aspirin and similar drugs to prevent blood clots, in combination with other treatments in the sickest patients with Covid-19 in intensive care, he said. added.
The UK recorded one person who died of Covid in the latest figures released yesterday, while 154 patients were hospitalized, in a trend that is largely flat.
The UK recorded one person who died of Covid in the latest figures released yesterday, while 154 patients were hospitalized