CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet

Do you really have to avoid ibuprofen because of coronavirus?

March 19, 2020, 3:22 PM UTC

Subscribe to Fortune’s Outbreak newsletter for a daily roundup of stories on the coronavirus outbreak and its impact on global business.

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
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com
@the_sy_guy

DIGITAL HEALTH

Can an app tell you if you've been near someone with coronavirus? Researchers from MIT and Harvard, with an assist from Facebook and Uber engineers, have developed an open source app called Private Kit: Safe Paths that would use location tracking to inform you whether or not you've been near or in contact with someone who has a (self-reported) COVID-19 case. It sounds a bit dystopian, but the app's creators say that it would use encrypted location data, rely on users to self-report cases, and not identify exactly who has a self-reported case near you, just that someone does. (MIT Technology Review)

INDICATIONS

Bristol-Myers' Juno teams up with Oxford Biomedica for cancer CAR-T work. Bristol-Myers Squibb came to own Juno, the cancer drug specialist, via its acquisition of Celgene, which itself had bought Juno in a $9 billion deal. Juno focuses on cell therapies such as CAR-T in order to fight cancers by re-engineering patients' own immune cells to become cancer killers. That requires some complex manufacturing capacity, including the ability to use viral vectors in the re-engineering process. To that end, Juno has struck a partnership with Oxford Biomedica to use its viral vector platform and spur new types of CAR-T treatments. (PharmaTimes)

THE BIG PICTURE

How the coronavirus sticks to surfaces. A new study finds that the coronavirus can linger on certain surfaces for up to 72 hours. While the bulk of the virus would be gone in a far shorter period of time (it varies depending on the surface, with it lingering to plastic for the longest time), it could still persist in some form for days—hence public health officials' warnings to try and avoid touching public surfaces that haven't been sanitized. (NEJM)

Being young doesn't inoculate you. A new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) analysis finds that, yes, even the young can die or get severely ill with COVID-19. While being elderly or sick significantly ups your risk factor, about 29% of reported case in the U.S. to date have occurred in people who are 20 to 44 years old. While the mortality rate was significantly lower among this cohort, it wasn't non-existent. (CDC)

REQUIRED READING

6 steps to sustainably flatten the coronavirus curveby Rich Lesser

South Korea amassed the world's most comprehensive coronavirus data. Here's what we've learnedby Grady McGregor

With the markets in turmoil, the ECB readies a bond-buying bazookaby Geoffrey Smith

Sign up for other Fortune newsletters.