The World Health Organization (WHO) advised Tuesday that patients suffering from 2019 coronavirus symptoms should avoid taking anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen because such could worsen the pandemic virus’s symptoms.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran gave the warning following a recent study in The Lancet medical journal, which hypothesized that an enzyme boosted by anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, could catalyze and worsen COVID-19 infections.
WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva the UN health agency’s experts were “looking into this to give further guidance.”
“In the meantime, we recommend using rather paracetamol and do not use ibuprofen as a self-medication. That’s important,” Lindmeier said.
He also said that if ibuprofen had been “prescribed by the health care professionals, then, of course, that’s up to them.”
His comments came after Veran sent a tweet cautioning that the use of ibuprofen and similar anti-inflammatory drugs could be “an aggravating factor” in COVID-19 infections.
“In the case of fever, take paracetamol,” he wrote.
WHO: Ibuprofen, anti-inflammatory drugs could worsen coronavirus symptoms
The French minister emphasized that patients who were already taking anti-inflammatory drugs should ask for advice from their doctor.
Meanwhile, taking paracetamol above the recommended dose could damage the liver.
A spokesperson for British pharmaceutical company Reckitt Benckiser, which makes Nurofen, said in an email statement that the company was aware of concerns raised about “the use of steroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory products, including ibuprofen, for the alleviation of COVID-19 symptoms.”
“Consumer safety is our No. 1 priority,” the spokesperson said, stressing that “ibuprofen is a well-established medicine that has been used safely as a self-care fever and pain reducer, including in viral illnesses, for more than 30 years.”
“We do not currently believe there is any proven scientific evidence linking over-the-counter use of ibuprofen to the aggravation of COVID-19,” the statement said.
The spokesperson said Reckitt Benckiser was “engaging with the WHO, EMA (the European Medicines Agency) and other local health authorities” on the issue and would provide “any additional information or guidance necessary for the safe use of our products following any such evaluation.”