France warns against using ibuprofen to treat coronavirus; experts weigh in

Health ministry says NSAIDs can make COVID-19 worse

Credit: AJC

WHO Considers 'Airborne Precautions' for Medical Staff.

France’s health minister, Olivier Veran, who is a neurologist, cautioned the public over the weekend that “the taking of anti-inflammatories could be a factor in aggravating” the coronavirus.

In his tweet, Metro UK reported, he added: "In case of fever, take paracetamol. If you are already taking anti-inflammatory drugs, ask your doctor's advice." Paracetamol is the same as acetaminophen.

» Complete coverage: Coronavirus

His post came the same day a man in South Gloucestershire, United Kingdom, shared his wife’s Facebook post warning that their 4-year-old daughter’s condition worsened after being given nurofen, the equivalent of ibuprofen.

» Latest Atlanta coronavirus news

According to Dan Collins’ wife, little Amelia Milner wasn’t feeling well and had a fever of 100.4. She was showing symptoms of the coronavirus, her mother gave her nurofen.

“Within an hour of giving her nurofen she dropped dramatically,” the post states. “She was panting while trying to breathe, her heart rate was very rapid, she couldn’t keep her eyes open, couldn’t lift her head up, her body was shaking, she started being sick on herself and her temperature had risen to 39.4! (almost 103)”

» This map tracks spread of coronavirus in real time

But some health experts say there isn’t enough available evidence to make the statement that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) will make the coronavirus worse.

“Deeply concerned about this bold statement by the French MoH with no reference to the claim, which is causing public concern. There’s no scientific evidence I am aware of that ibuprofen cause worst outcomes in #COVID19, Dr. Muge Cevik, a virology clinician and researcher at the University of St. Andrews, tweeted.

In a later tweet, she said the health minister’s announcement was based on anecdotes, but “we need to keep a close eye on this.”

"I don't think we've had any firm evidence to suggest that (ibuprofen aggravating Covid-19) is a concern at this point," Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, professor of pediatrics and infectious disease epidemiologist at Stanford University in California, told CNN.

A 2018 study linked NSAIDs to irregular heartbeats, a condition that can increase a person's risk of stroke or heart failure. Another study that year linked ibuprofen to male infertility.

For those reasons and other side effects of NSAIDs, Tom Wingfield, a lecturer and consultant physician at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, told CNN that paracetamol (acetaminophen) "would generally be preferred" over ibuprofen in most cases.

» Why the CDC recommends you wash your hands a certain way