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.
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