Nicotine patches given to coronavirus patients as trial treatment – but docs say it’s NOT a reason to smoke – The Sun

SCIENTISTS are set to give nicotine patches to coronavirus patients as a trial treatment – to see if they will ward off Covid-19.

However, experts are urging people that this is not an excuse to smoke or take up smoking, as cigarettes have fatal health risks.

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And the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that cigarettes can actually increase the risk of contracting Covid-19 – and smokers may also already have lung disease or reduced lung capacity "which would greatly increase risk of serious illness".

French researchers are examining the impact of nicotine patches on Covid-19 after a new study claimed few people hospitalised, or at home, with coronavirus were regular smokers compared to the general population.

The team suggested that nicotine could prevent the virus from infecting cells or that nicotine was preventing the immune system from overreacting to the virus, according to The Guardian.

Despite this, ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) say that these reports suggesting that the percentage of smokers attending hospital for Covid-19 is less than we might have expected are "uncertain" and rely on people being able to report on their smoking and healthcare professionals having the time to record it.

Smokers who have coronavirus are at a higher risk of severe illness and death

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, added: "The UK symptom tracker data is now showing that smokers are at an increased risk of developing symptoms of Covid-19 (fever and a persistent cough).

"There is also evidence that smokers in hospital who have coronavirus are at a higher risk than non-smokers of severe illness and death.

"Furthermore, there are many other reasons to quit for covid, as smokers are also much more at risk of range of serious health problems requiring them to be admitted to hospital.

"The reports of a trial in France to see whether nicotine patches can help prevent or help lessen symptoms of Covid-19 should not put smokers off trying to quit, but encourage them to use alternative sources of nicotine to help them stay quit.

"Smokers are much more likely to succeed in quitting smoking if they use alternative forms of nicotine, such as patches, gum and e-cigarettes which are much less harmful than smoking."


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To test the theory that nicotine could prevent Covid-19, the scientists will put nicotine patches on coronavirus patients both in and out of intensive care, as well as frontline workers, to see if therapy has any impact on the deadly disease.

For the study, carried out at Pitié Salpêtrière, part of the Hôpitaux de Paris, the team analysed 480 patients who tested positive for Covid-19.

Out of the participants, 350 were hospitalised and the remainder recovered at home.

The results revealed that of the patients hospitalised, with a median age of 65, only 4.4 per cent were regular smokers.

Meanwhile, among those at home, with a median age of 44, 5.3 per cent were smokers.

By comparison, among the general population, 40 percent of those between ages 44 and 53 smoke, and around 11 percent of those aged 65 to 75 smoke.

'Significant effect'

The researchers determined that far fewer smokers appear to have contracted the virus or, if they have, their symptoms are less serious.

Writing in the study, the researchers said: "Our cross-sectional study strongly suggests that those who smoke every day are much less likely to develop a symptomatic or severe infection with Sars-CoV-2 compared with the general population.

"The effect is significant. It divides the risk by five for ambulatory patients and by four for those admitted to hospital. We rarely see this in medicine."

This is not the first article to suggest that nicotine may curb the symptoms of coronavirus.

A French study from the Université Pierre et Marie Curie found that just 8.5 percent of 11,000 hospitalised coronavirus patients were smokers compared to 25.4 percent of the country's population.

And a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 12.6 percent of 1,100 Chinese patients were were current smokers and 1.9 percent were former smokers.

Despite this, experts are urging people not to take up smoking as cigarettes have fatal health risks.

And a "small but highly impactful" survey from China found that smokers with Covid-19 are 14 times more likely to develop severe disease.

Advice published by the National Institute For Health And Care Excellence (Nice) "strongly encourages" smokers with severe respiratory disease to quit because of coronavirus.

Dr Sanjay Agrawal, consultant in respiratory and intensive care medicine, previously said: "Doctors should be strongly encouraging smokers with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to quit.

Smokers should try to quit without delay

"In fact they should be encouraging all smokers to quit, as early evidence from China shows that smokers who contract Covid-19 are more likely to develop severe disease, to end up in intensive care and to die.

"Smokers should try to quit without delay.

"The benefits from quitting are immediate, including increased oxygen supply to the lungs, reduced risk of respiratory infections, and improvements in blood pressure.

"Longer-term benefits include significant reductions in the risk of developing cancer, heart disease and COPD."

Dr Hilary Jones has also refuted claims that smoking protects against coronavirus – after artist David Hockey suggested cigarettes helped in the fight against coronavirus.

He said: "There's no evidence whatsoever to support that.

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"In fact, if you look at the comorbidities, the reasons why people with pre-existing conditions fare so badly with Covid-19 is because of their age, because of them being obese or because they have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) caused by years of smoking.

"So whether you smoke today or whether you smoked for many years, you are more likely to suffer from the consequences of Covid-19.

"I'm afraid David, there is no way out of this. Smoking is not good for you now and never has been."

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