Blood thinner reduces need for organ support in some Covid patients, says study

·2-min read

Blood thinning drug heparin may be able to reduce the need for organ support in moderately ill patients admitted to hospital with Covid-19, research suggests.

However, the study, published in the the New England Journal of Medicine, indicates the medicine does not benefit patients who are critically ill with the disease in intensive care units.

The findings come from a global clinical trial involving 1,074 critically ill and 2,219 moderately ill patients, recruited between April and December 2020.

Researchers in the US studied the effects of using a full dose of heparin versus a low dose of the drug in moderately and critically ill patients admitted to hospital with Covid-19.

Moderately ill patients are defined as those admitted to hospital with Covid-19 without the requirement of organ support, while critically ill patients are defined as people requiring an intensive care level of support, such as mechanical ventilation.

The team found that full-dose heparin did not reduce the need for organ support – and may even cause harm in critically ill patients – but benefitted those moderately ill.

Previous research has shown some people who died from Covid-19 had blood clots present throughout their bodies, even in their smallest blood vessels.

Among moderately ill patients, the scientists found the likelihood of full-dose heparin to reduce the need for organ support compared to those who received low-dose heparin was 99%.

The team said a small number of patients experienced major bleeding, but added this happened infrequently.

For critically ill patients, full-dose heparin also decreased the number of events associated with blood clots, but it did not reduce the need for organ support or increase their chances of leaving the hospital early after receiving treatment, they added.

Gary H Gibbons, director at the the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) in Maryland, US, said: “These results make for a compelling example of how important it is to stratify patients with different disease severity in clinical trials.

“What might help one subgroup of patients might be of no benefit, or even harmful, in another.”

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