Low-dose aspirin may help protect the lungs and reduce the need to put patients on ventilators, researchers reported Wednesday.
The cheap and widely available pills also keep patients out of ICUs and can reduce the risk of death, probably by preventing tiny blood clots, a team at George Washington University reported in a study published in the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia.
Aspirin is particularly attractive because it is one of the most widely available over-the-counter drugs. Its cost, at just cents per dose, is minuscule compared with other commonly used anti-Covid drugs such as remdesivir, which can run thousands of dollars for a typical treatment course.
Aspirin can help prevent blood clots, which is why people who have had a heart attack are often advised to take a baby aspirin every day.
“The reason why we started looking at aspirin and Covid is because in the spring we all realized that all these patients started to have a lot of thrombotic complications, or a lot of blood clots that have formed throughout their bodies,” Dr. Jonathan Chow, assistant professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, told CNN.
“That is why we thought that using an antiplatelet agent, or a blood thinner, like aspirin, might be helpful in Covid-19,” Chow said.
The team looked at the records of 412 patients admitted to several US hospitals between March and July 2020. About 24% of the patients received aspirin within 24 hours of hospital admission, or in the seven days before hospital admission. But most, 76%, did not receive the drug. Aspirin use was associated with a 44% reduction in mechanical ventilation, a 43% reduction in ICU admission, and a 47% reduction for in-hospital mortality, the researchers found.
Other studies have made similar findings. One study, published in the journal PLOS One, looked at more than 30,000 US veterans with Covid-19, and found those already taking aspirin had half the risk of dying as those not prescribed the daily pills.
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Chow cautioned that one limitation of his team’s new study was that it looked at medical records and did not randomly assign patients to take either aspirin or a placebo.
He pointed to the Recovery Trial in the United Kingdom, which is investigating aspirin and Covid-19 in a gold standard randomized control trial, as the ultimate arbiter in whether aspirin definitively improves outcomes as compared with patients who don’t take the drug.