Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have found that patients who take low-dose aspirin when hospitalized for complications associated with the coronavirus might have a lower risk of dying from it.
The link between the commonly used pain reliever and lower death rate comes from a study of 412 COVID-19 patients, aged 55 on average, who were hospitalized over the past few months at the University of Maryland Medical Center and three other East Coast hospitals.
About a quarter of the patients, whose medical records were reviewed by the researchers, were taking a daily low-dose aspirin before they were admitted or right after admission to manage their cardiovascular disease.
Those who took aspirin were 44% less likely to be placed in the intensive care unit, 44% less likely to be hooked up to a mechanical ventilator, and 47% less likely to die compared to hospitalized patients who were not taking aspirin, according to the study, published Thursday in the journal “Anesthesia and Analgesia.”
The patients in the aspirin group did not experience a significant increase in adverse events such as major bleeding while hospitalized.
“This is a critical finding that needs to be confirmed through a randomized clinical trial,” said study leader Dr. Jonathan Chow, assistant professor of anesthesiology at the medical school, in a statement. “If our finding is confirmed, it would make aspirin the first widely available, over-the-counter medication to reduce mortality in COVID-19 patients.”
The coronavirus has caused wide-ranging complications in patients, from blood clots and cardiovascular problems to septic shock and severe respiratory distress. Over 220,000 Americans have died of the COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, including nearly 4,000 in Maryland.
In this study, the researchers controlled for age, gender, body mass index, race, hypertension and diabetes. They also accounted for heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease and the use of beta blockers to control blood pressure.
Doctors often recommend a daily low-dose aspirin for patients who have had a heart attack or stroke caused by a blood clot to prevent future blood clots. The authors of the study believe it could also prevent clotting in COVID-19 patients, as the disease increases the risk of blood clots.
“Patients diagnosed with COVID-19 may want to consider taking a daily aspirin as long as they check with their doctor first," said study co-author Dr. Michael A. Mazzeffi, an associate professor of anesthesiology at the medical school.
Mazzeffi added that some people, such as those with chronic kidney disease, may not be able to take aspirin.
Vaccines for the coronavirus remain under development. On Thursday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved remdesivir as the first antiviral treatment for COVID-19 patients over age 12.