Trial of ibuprofen to treat COVID-19 starts in UK

The LIBERATE trial is testing whether ibuprofen can reduce the severity and progression of lung injury in hospitalised patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms.

Researchers hope ibuprofen treatment will keep patients with COVID-19 off ventilators. | GETTY IMAGES
Researchers hope ibuprofen treatment will keep patients with COVID-19 off ventilators. | GETTY IMAGES

Led by researchers from Guy's and St Thomas' hospital and King's College, the trial will randomise up to 230 patients with COVID-19 to test the effects of a lipid capsule formulation of ibuprofen. 

Studies in animals suggest this particular formulation of ibuprofen, already available as a treatment for other conditions, might treat acute respiratory distress syndrome - one of the complications of severe coronavirus. It may also have fewer side-effects than standard formulations.

Half of the patients will receive ibuprofen in addition to the usual standard care for COVID-19, with the other half receiving standard care alone. The goal is to evaluate how three doses of the drug affect disease progression such as lung failure and the time to mechanical ventilation. The investigators will also look at the length of critical care stay, length of hospital stay and overall survival.

The leaders of the study say that the trial will help to refine treatment for COVID-19, as an approach distinct from either vaccines or antiviral drugs being researched by other groups.

Professor Mitul Mehta, director of the Centre for Innovative Therapeutics at King's College, said: 'This trial represents an opportunity to formally test promising results from animal models and case studies in patients. If successful this trial will provide evidence for a low cost treatment that could benefit patients in the UK as well as other countries, including lower and middle income countries.'

Early in the pandemic there were concerns that ibuprofen might worsen symptoms of coronavirus. However, the MHRA found no evidence to support a link between ibuprofen and development or worsening of COVID-19.

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