Scientists in London are running tests to find out whether common painkiller and anti-inflammatory medicine Ibuprofen can help to treat Covid-19 positive patients and steer them away from fatal respiratory failure and the need for ventilators, news agency Bloomberg reported.

A team of researchers from London’s Guy’s Hospital, St Thomas’ Hospital and King’s College are running a trial to see whether the painkiller and anti-inflammatory medicine Ibuprofen can be used to treat coronavirus patients. With around 180 countries across the world grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic amid escalating deaths, scientists and researchers are hoping that the low-cost treatment will reduce the burden on hospitals and medical facilities by keeping patients off ventilators.

The study uses a type of Ibuprofen called Flarin that’s available in the United Kingdom and has a separate composition than the standard version to protect the stomach. The study is being run by Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, King’s College London and SEEK, a proprietary drug-research firm.

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If the clinical trial is successful, it would mark a turnaround in attitudes toward the drug during the Covid-19 pandemic. The trial, called Liberate, was launched after studies conducted on animals suggested that the medication could treat acute respiratory distress syndrome — one of the complications associated with the Covid-19 disease.

The trial will be randomized, with half the patients receiving standard care alone and the other half receiving the drug additionally. The first half who will receive standard care, will continuously be given oxygen as well.

“As a new illness, there are limited treatment options for patients with Covid-19,” said Richard Beale, a professor of intensive care medicine at the NHS trust. “The clinical trial will assess whether this unique formulation of an established drug benefits patients.”

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Professor Mitul Mehta, a member of the research team, stressed that the trial was for hospitalised patients and not for mild cases. Participants were drawn from among those hospitalised, but not requiring intensive care, according to the news agency.

French Health Minister Olivier Veran had said in March that patients with Covid-19 should avoid anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen because it might aggravate their infections. Europe’s top medicines regulator said shortly afterward that there’s no solid evidence that Ibuprofen makes the virus worse.

At the onset of the pandemic in the United Kingdom, health experts had raised concerns over whether the anti-inflammatory drug should be used by people showing mild coronavirus symptoms. Following this, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) in March withdrew the advisory they had issued on their website for the use of Ibuprofen by people suffering from mild cases of Covid-19.

The United Kingdom is one of the worst-hit countries in the world with a very high concentration of coronavirus positive patients.

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