Risk of COVID-19 Diagnosis and Hospitalisation in Patients with Osteoarthritis or Back Pain Treated with Ibuprofen Compared to Other NSAIDs or Paracetamol: A Network Cohort Study

Junqing Xie, James T. Brash, Cigdem Turkmen, Stefan Driessen, Giustino Varrassi, George Argyriou, Sarah Seager, Christian Reich, Daniel Prieto-Alhambra*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Objective: We aimed to investigate whether ibuprofen use, compared with other non-selective non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ns-NSAIDs), cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors (COX-2i) or paracetamol, increases the risk of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) diagnosis or hospitalisation. Design: A prevalent user and active comparator cohort study. Setting: Two US claims databases (Open Claims and PharMetrics Plus) mapped to the Observational Medical Outcomes Partnership Common Data Model. Participants: Insured patients with a history of osteoarthritis or back pain and receiving ibuprofen, other ns-NSAIDs, COX-2i or paracetamol between 1 November, 2019 and 31 January, 2020 (study enrolment window 1) or between 1 February, 2020 and 31 October, 2020 (study enrolment window 2). Main Outcome Measures: Large-scale propensity score matching and empirical calibration were used to minimise confounding. Incidence and hazard ratios of COVID-19 diagnosis and hospitalisation according to drug/s use were estimated and pooled in the same study period across data sources using a fixed-effects meta-analysis. Index treatment episode was the primary risk evaluation window, censored at the time of discontinuation. Results: A total of 633,562 and 1,063,960 participants were included in periods 1 and 2, respectively, for the ibuprofen versus ns-NSAIDs comparison, 311,669 and 524,470 for ibuprofen versus COX-2i, and 492,002 and 878,598 for ibuprofen versus paracetamol. Meta-analyses of empirically calibrated hazard ratios revealed no significantly differential risk of COVID-19 outcomes in users of ibuprofen versus any of the other studied analgesic classes: hazard ratios were 1.13 (0.96–1.33) for the ibuprofen-ns-NSAIDs comparison, 1.03 (0.83–1.28) for the ibuprofen-COX-2i comparison and 1.13 (0.74–1.73) for ibuprofen-paracetamol comparison on COVID-19 diagnosis in the February 2020–October 2020 window. Similar hazard ratios were found on COVID-19 hospitalisation and across both study periods. Conclusions: In patients with osteoarthritis or back pain, we found no differential risks of incident COVID-19 diagnosis or COVID-19 hospitalisation for ibuprofen users compared with other ns-NSAIDs, COX-2i or paracetamol. Our findings support regulatory recommendations that NSAIDs, including ibuprofen, should be prescribed as indicated in the same way as before the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for those who rely on ibuprofen or NSAIDs to manage chronic arthritis or musculoskeletal pain symptoms. Graphical abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-263
Number of pages15
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Abbott contracted IQVIA for the conduct of this study. Prof. Prieto-Alhambra receives funding from the UK National Institute for Health Research in the form of a Senior Research Fellowship, and as part of the Oxford National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre. Prof. Giustino Varrassi had a contract with Abbott International, as a consultant for scientific projects. He is also a consultant for scientific projects with Dompé Farmaceutici and Menarini Group.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).


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