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Society position on medicines and COVID-19

Comprehensive pharmacovigilance and pharmacoepidemiology are needed to inform medication use during the COVID-19 pandemic

The Society recognises that concerns have been raised about the use of certain medications in the COVID-19 pandemic. Comprehensive pharmacovigilance and pharmacoepidemiology are of utmost importance when seeking to understand how this new virus may affect the risk of using medicines. Concerns have been raised about the following medications:

  • Ibuprofen (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug used to relieve pain and inflammation; NSAID)
  • ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers, both used to treat high blood pressure and cardiac diseases
  • Corticosteroids (anti-inflammatory medicines used for conditions including as asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and ulcerative colitis)
  • Immunosuppressants, as used for example in the treatment of autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis

The Commission on Human Medicines (an advisory body of the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency; MHRA) and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) were asked to review the evidence on these medicines. These organisations are publishing rapid guidelines and evidence summaries to support the management of chronic conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic as soon as their reviews are completed.
Regarding ibuprofen, a rapid evidence summary report was released on 14 April 2020 relating to acute use of NSAIDs. NHS England released a clinical commissioning policy on the topic alongside this report. The Society previously set out our position on the use of ibuprofen as it relates to COVID-19 on 18 March 2020, stating that ‘there is no consistent evidence to suggest that ibuprofen worsens the disease’, and we support the NHS guidance. We will continue to regularly review the emerging guidelines on this and for other medications.
Patients should not stop taking medication for long-term conditions unless on the advice of a healthcare professional. Stopping or changing medicines for chronic health conditions without appropriate advice can be harmful. Now more than ever, people can look after their own health and support the NHS by following both official guidance and that of their doctor.
Clinical pharmacologists are experts in interpreting the overall balance of risks and benefits of using medicines and are among those working with NICE, the MHRA and NHS England to support the safe and effective use of medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic.