Ibuprofen is to be trialled as a potential way to ease respiratory failure in severe coronavirus sufferers and cut the number of patients admitted to intensive care.
The trial at Guy’s and St Thomas Hospital will follow up research in animals that has indicated a specific formulation of the long-standing anti-inflammatory and pain relief drug can help breathing in COVID-19 patients.
“If successful, the global public health value of this trial result would be immense given the low cost and availability of this medicine,” said Matthew Hotopf, a director of NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre.
Ibuprofen’s role in the treatment of coronavirus had been questioned previously, with the French health ministry advising people as early as March not to take this type of anti-inflammatory drug to treat the virus.
British and US regulators, however, say there is no evidence it can do any harm while Nurofen maker Reckitt Benckiser (LON:RB.) said there is no evidence that ibuprofen worsens the condition of anyone with COVID-19.
Professor Mital Mehta from King’s College, London said the special formulation of ibuprofen had reduced deaths in animals with acute respiratory disease or ARDS – a critical element in coronavirus virus fatalities - to 20% from 80%.
"This is very promising," he told Sky News, adding, "But of course it is an animal study, so we want to translate that really compelling result into humans."
Prolonged use of ibuprofen has been linked to gastric problems but Mehta said the new formulation will also address this side effect.
The “LIBERATE” trial will be a randomised study of up to 230 patients. Half of those involved will receive the new ibuprofen formulation and the other half standard care.
Reckitt Benckiser shares eased 0.5% to 6,972p in afternoon trading.