“Recently the French government and the French Health Minister, Olivier Veran, issued a warning that patients infected with COVID-19 should avoid taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), including ibuprofen (brand name Advil). Based on their experience with infected patients, they believed that use of NSAIDs could be a factor in making COVID-19 infections much worse. Since then health authorities worldwide have been waffling on this issue.[i]
What the Science Says About Ibuprofen and COVID-19
There is some science behind why ibuprofen and other NSAIDs may make COVID-19 worse. NSAIDs have long been known to suppress the immune system. According to Dr. Amir Khan, a National Health Service (NHS) doctor and senior university lecturer in the UK:
“When the virus enters the human body, it induces mild to severe respiratory problems, a high fever, cough and, potentially, multi-organ dysfunction, which can lead to death. An early part of our body’s immune response to a virus of this sort is to release cells called mast cells, which form our first line of defense against the virus. These [mast cells] are released very quickly from our respiratory tract — the nasal passageway and linings of the lungs. When the mast cells come into contact with the virus, they then trigger a much bigger immune response, which involves inflammatory chemicals being released.
“We need these inflammatory chemicals to help tackle the virus in the medium to long term. It is the effectiveness of these chemicals that decides whether a person develops complications from the coronavirus or makes a full recovery. If we take medicines that dampen this immune response, such as ibuprofen, this can lead to us not fighting off the infection as effectively, potentially leading to a longer illness with a higher risk of complications.”[ii]
In addition, recent research on COVID-19 has shown that the virus uses a receptor known as Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 (ACE2) to enter the cell and replicate.[iii] This has important implications for development of treatments, but also important reasons for avoiding ibuprofen. Some lab experiments have shown that ibuprofen may boost the amount of ACE2 receptors that the virus uses to infect cells and make the virus spread faster.
According to Rodney E. Rohde, PhD, a professor at Texas State University, ““I do not believe there is enough evidence due to a small sample size of patients,” he said. “However, if one is concerned, then they may want to avoid those drugs or drug families.” Rhodes went on to say that ibuprofen is known to diminish the body’s inflammatory response, which is a vital component of the body’s T and B cell responses.[iv]
Another voice recommending caution in using ibuprofen during a COVID-19 infection is Dr. Carlos Del Rio, a professor of medicine and global health at Emory University, who also stated concerns about ibuprofen and its effect on ACE2 receptors.[v]
What WHO & US Government Say About Ibuprofen and COVID-19
The World Health Organization (WHO) responded to initial reports about ibuprofen worsening COVID-19 by recommending that patients take acetaminophen (Tylenol) instead to treat fever and aches and pains. However, the WHO later backed off from this advisory, saying that there was not enough evidence to make this recommendation. The U.S. National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases also states that, “More research is needed to evaluate reports that ibuprofen and other over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs may affect the course of COVID-19.”
The research these prestigious institutions are talking about that would provide the definitive evidence are randomized, controlled double-blinded studies that take months or years to complete. In the meantime, people all over the world are dying from COVID-19 every day.
Play It Safe – Use Other Methods to Treat COVID-19
Do you want to wait for that evidence before you decide? I don’t. Play it safe. There are many other options besides taking ibuprofen for fever and aches and pains. As noted above, one is acetaminophen (Tylenol). Be careful, though, not to exceed the maximum recommended dose of 3000mg daily.
First, consider if you need to take anything at all. If you’re taking ibuprofen to reduce fever, consider that a fever is one of the ways your body fights a virus and that a high fever is not dangerous except in the very young or if it is prolonged. ” Authored by: C. Perlin March 30, 2020