Coronavirus: France's health minister warns ibuprofen could worsen infection, experts ask for scientific proof
Popping ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory drugs could worsen COVID-19, France's health minister has warned, a claim which currently has no scientific evidence or backing.
"Taking anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, cortisone, ...) could be an aggravating factor of the infection. If you have a fever, take paracetamol. If you are already on anti-inflammatory drugs or in doubt, ask your doctor for advice," the Minister of Health, Olivier Veran, tweeted on March 14.
While both paracetamol and ibuprofen reduce coronavirus symptoms such as fever, the former does so without interfering with the body's response to an infection or injury: inflammation. Drugs like Ibuprofen, on the other hand, reduce inflammation, providing relief to people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and asthma.
The minister's warning has come as a shocker to a few. An expert took to Twitter, asking for evidence to support the claim.
An infectious disease expert, Dr. Muge Cevik from the University of St. Andrews tweeted saying, "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".
She added that if French clinicians are observing a signal, they should communicate this appropriately within a context. "We need proper risk communication here," she said.
According to another infectious disease expert, the French ministry's claim could be from direct observations in some hospitals. More than 5,400 people have tested positive for the infection in the country and 127 are dead. Only 12 have recovered so far.
From mid-January, the French government has forced patients to consult pharmacies if they want to buy the drugs. “Anti-inflammatory drugs increase the risk of complications when there is a fever or an infection," Jean-Louis Montastruc, the head of pharmacology at Toulouse hospital, told RTL radio.
Another expert has also asked for more data. Dr. Amy Edwards, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and associate medical director for infection control at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital is reluctant to accept any blanket statement, according to Cleveland.com.
For inflammation, Edwards often advises that children and adults alternate between paracetamol and ibuprofen. She, however, says that ibuprofen could pose problems for COVID-19 patients who are already battling inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Taking these anti-inflammatory drugs to control inflammation brought on by the coronavirus may be a problem, she adds.