The World Health Organization recommended Tuesday that people suffering COVID-19 symptoms avoid taking ibuprofen, after French officials warned that anti-inflammatory drugs could worsen effects of the virus.
The warning by French Health Minister Olivier Veran followed a recent study in The Lancet medical journal that hypothesised that an enzyme boosted by anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen could facilitate and worsen COVID-19 infections.
Asked about the study, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva the UN health agency’s experts were “looking into this to give further guidance.” “In the meantime, we recommend using rather paracetamol, and do not use ibuprofen as a self-medication. That’s important,” he said.
He added that if ibuprofen had been “prescribed by the healthcare professionals, then, of course, that’s up to them.”
His comments came after Veran sent a tweet cautioning that the use of ibuprofen and similar anti-inflammatory drugs could be “an aggravating factor” in COVID-19 infections.
“In the case of fever, take paracetamol,” he wrote. The French minister stressed that patients already being treated with anti-inflammatory drugs should ask advice from their doctor.
Paracetamol must be taken strictly according to the recommended dose, because too much of it can damage the liver.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected around 190,000 people worldwide and killed more than 7,800, causes mild symptoms in most people, but can result in pneumonia and in some cases severe illness that can lead to multiple organ failure.
Even before the pandemic, French authorities sounded the alarm over serious “infectious complications” linked to the use of ibuprofen, which is sold under various brands like Nurofen and Advil, and other anti-inflammatory drugs.