Recent work has backed up research from earlier this year that suggested that aspirin might help reduce the chance that a case of COVID-19 will be deadly. Scientists at the University of Maryland Baltimore School of Medicine (UMSOM) determined that people who take low-dose aspirin daily were significantly less likely to need to be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU), and had better chances of surviving their illness than people that did not take aspirin. The findings, which have been reported in the journal Anesthesia and Analgesia, could enable clinicians to advise some people on how to avoid the worst cases of COVID-19.
“This is a critical finding that needs to be confirmed through a randomized clinical trial,” said study leader Jonathan Chow, M.D., an assistant professor of anesthesiology at UMSOM. “If our finding is confirmed, it would make aspirin the first widely available, over-the-counter medication to reduce mortality in COVID-19 patients.”
In this study, the researchers mined the records of 412 people that were hospitalized at one of three hospitals on the East Coast over the past few months with a case of COVID-19. About a quarter of the patients, who had an average age of 55, were taking low-dose aspirin every day to manage cardiovascular disease.
For those on daily aspirin, ICU admission and mechanical ventilators were about 43 percent less likely, and there was a 47 percent reduction in the risk of death. People taking aspirin also did not have any increase in medical problems like bleeding. The researchers controlled for a variety of factors including age, health, and body mass index.
COVID-19 has been associated with the formation of blood clots all over the vasculature, including vessels in the lungs and heart. These clots may go on to cause other complications like stroke, which may lead to organ failure or death. While low-dose daily aspirin regimens are often recommended for people that have recovered from a stroke or heart attack, this daily intake of aspirin can also raise the risk of bleeding in some people.
“We believe that the blood-thinning effects of aspirin provide benefits for COVID-19 patients by preventing microclot formation,” said study co-author Michael A. Mazzeffi, M.D., an associate professor of anesthesiology at UMSOM. “Patients diagnosed with COVID-19 may want to consider taking a daily aspirin as long as they check with their doctor first.”
People with health issues like kidney disease, or those on medications like blood thinners, might not be able to take aspirin, he noted.