Aspirin doesn’t improve the chances of survival for patients hospitalized with COVID-19, early results from a large U.K. study showed on Tuesday.
Scientists at the University of Oxford had hoped that the cheap, over-the-counter drug could reduce the risk of blood clots that COVID-19 can cause in blood vessels, particularly in the lungs. Aspirin is widely used to prevent blood clots associated with many other conditions, including heart attacks, strokes, and preeclampsia in pregnant women.
But results from the Randomized Evaluation of COVID-19 thERapY (Recovery) trial showed that aspirin made no difference in mortality after about 28 days, in a clinical trial that involved almost 15,000 volunteers. The results will be published shortly on the medRxiv website, and have been submitted to a leading, peer-reviewed medical journal.
“There has been a strong suggestion that blood clotting may be responsible for deteriorating lung function and death in patients with severe COVID,” said Martin Landray, professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Oxford and one of the study’s lead authors, in a statement.
“Aspirin is inexpensive and widely used in other diseases to reduce the risk of blood clots so it is disappointing that it did not have a major impact for these patients.”
From the archives (November 2020): Aspirin to be investigated as potential treatment for COVID-19
In the study, a total of 7,351 patients were selected at random to receive 150mg of aspirin once a day and compared with 7,541 patients given usual care alone. There was no evidence that the drug treatment reduced mortality. But the research found that survivors spent one less day in the hospital compared with those who didn’t get a daily dose of aspirin.
For every 1000 patients treated with aspirin, approximately six more patients experienced a major bleeding event and approximately six fewer experienced a thromboembolic (clotting) event, researchers said.
The Recovery trial was the first to show that the widely available steroid dexamethasone could cut the risk of death by one-third in patients receiving invasive mechanical ventilation, and by one-fifth in patients receiving oxygen. But the trial found no benefit for COVID-19 patients from drugs such as the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine or azithromycin, an antibiotic that also reduces inflammation, a key feature of severe COVID-19.