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What we know about the alleged relationship between ibuprofen and the coronavirus that the French Minister of Health defends

Harry Watson



Yesterday, the French health minister, Olivier Véran, published a tweet saying ” taking anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, cortisone …) could be an aggravating factor of the infection [by coronavirus]. If you have fever, take paracetamol If you are already taking anti-inflammatory medications or have doubts, ask your doctor. ” Since then, through the social networks, WhatsApp groups and even the media, the idea that ibuprofen could be dangerous in the middle of the COVID-19 outbreak has spread like wildfire.

So much so that the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products has had to keep up with the information and make it clear that “there is no data that indicates that ibuprofen worsens COVID-19 infections.” This is what is known (and what is not) about the relationship between anti-inflammatory drugs and the evolution of coronavirus pneumonia .

Where does the idea come from?

As Esther Samper pointed out , several hoaxes have been running around ibuprofen and coronavirus in recent days . Both the alleged study from the University of Vienna and the alleged serious young patients from Toulouse who had used anti-inflammatories have turned out to be false information. However, the health minister’s tweet is related to a letter that was published in The Lancet , one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals.

In the letter, three researchers from the Universities of Basel (Switzerland) and Thessaloniki (Greece) stated that some of the most frequent comorbidities among those who died in a hospital in Wuhan and in other parts of China were hypertension and diabetes. From there, they presented a hypothesis that related certain drugs (including ibuprofen or ketoprofen) with a possible overexpression of the ACE2 enzyme in lung cells. That one, according to the researchers, is one of the molecular “doors” that the virus uses to enter and infect these cells .

So is it true?

No or, at least, there is no reliable data that makes us think about it . The letter in question has four paragraphs and is part of the general effort being made by the medical community to search, together, for ways to defeat the virus on their own land. But, as the same authors point out, there is no scientific data to support the idea. And, in fact, there are several points where the hypothesis does not hold. It is, to put it in some way, a contribution to the enormous scientific brainstorming of these weeks that has been taken out of context.

The AEMPS has made it clear “the use of ibuprofen is not contraindicated, nor” patients who are on chronic treatment should not discontinue it “

Of course, these ideas never fall on deaf ears. The AEMPS, in its statement today , explained that, just in case, “the possible relationship between exacerbation of infections with ibuprofen and ketoprofen is being evaluated for the entire European Union in the Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee .” However, “it is not contraindicated,” nor “patients who are on chronic treatment with ibuprofen or ketoprofen should not discontinue it . 

The curious thing about this matter is that all clinical guidelines recommend the use of acetaminophen for the treatment of fever (and the rest of the symptoms of COVID-19) as the first alternative, and the use of ibuprofen or other such aines is recommended. in the event that the first option cannot be taken for any reason. In other words, except in those specific cases that specifically require it, no infected person will be taking ibuprofen under a prescription.

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