Do you really have to avoid ibuprofen because of coronavirus?

March 19, 2020, 3:22 PM UTC

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There’s a debate raging about, of all things, ibuprofen.

Let’s back up for a second. The controversy started when France’s health minister sent out an eyebrow-raising tweet over the weekend warning against the use of NSAIDs (the class of drugs that includes ibuprofen).

“Serious adverse events related to the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have been reported in patients with COVID-19, possible or confirmed cases,” reads an alert on the French government’s website. Patients should instead use acetaminophen, the active ingredient in drugs like Tylenol, per the health minister.

But that ostensible link between COVID-19 and serious side effects hasn’t actually been proven. The European Medicines Agency (EMA), essentially Europe’s version of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), released a statement Wednesday saying, “There is currently no scientific evidence establishing a link between ibuprofen and worsening of COVID‑19.”

The World Health Organization (WHO), which some reports had suggested was backing France’s stance on ibuprofen for COVID-19, also doesn’t see any immediate evidence to support the claim. “At present, based on currently available information, WHO does not recommend against the use of ibuprofen,” the global health agency wrote in a tweet Wednesday.

Both the EMA and the WHO said they would be monitoring the situation but had yet to hear widespread reports from physicians saying that ibuprofen caused serious side effects in COVID-19 patients beyond those that are already associated with the painkiller.

It’s possible we’ll see some sort of unique effect down the line—this is, after all, a new virus. But for now, this appears to be an overblown concern.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


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