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Ibuprofen and Coronavirus: everything you need to know

We’ve been given a lot of information about preventing the spread of covid-19, so we all know to catch a sneeze in tissue and discard it, and we’ve been told to keep away from one another through social distancing, but what should you take if you get the disease? It feels like there’s less information out there about that. And there’s some confusion too. Should you take ibuprofen or not? Your pharmacist will say not to, but the World Health Organization (WHO) changed its stance on the med recently, so let’s not be too hasty.

World Health Organization

The WHO originally recommended that suffers should avoid taking ibuprofen, but from 19th March, the WHO now does not recommend that people avoid it. Is that the same as recommended that suffers take the drug? No. The problem here is that there’s a lot of advice from different but equally valid sources. The confusion began when France’s Minister of Solidarity and Health Oliver Véran took to Twitter to announce that anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen could worsen the virus. The NHS didn’t respond to that, but they began to recommend taking paracetamol. The fact that they didn’t comment on the effect of anti-inflammatory drugs on COVID-19 means the British public is now unsure whether they can or can’t take ibuprofen.

NHS

Ibuprofen has three uses. As a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, it works to reduce inflammation, lower pain and reduce fevers. They’re also taken for conditions such as arthritis. That means there’s a section of the British public that takes the drug routinely for their ailments. Are they added to their own personal risk? Should they change to using paracetamol to manage their pain? The NHS has not directly addressed this, so anyone with a need to take ibuprofen on a regular basis should check with their GP.

Concerns

Previous studies concluded that those who suffer from chest infections such as pneumonia experience worsening symptoms which prolong their illness if they take ibuprofen, but what’s not clear is if taking ibuprofen directly caused the worsening symptoms or just failed to prevent the symptoms from worsening. Do anti-inflammatory drugs interfere with the body’s immune system? That’s a theory that hasn’t been proven.

The Lancet

In a letter to The Lancet publication, the writer suggested that ibuprofen is harmful to COVID-19 suffers because it affects an enzyme in the body called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). People with existing heart conditions may be taking angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), so if they read the letter, they may consider stopping their medication. Whatever you do during this confusing medical crisis, do not make decisions on which medicines to take without seeking medical advice. If your doctor has prescribed medicine, continue to take it.

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