Covid-19: France advises against ibuprofen to treat symptoms


France’s Health Minister Olivier Véran delivered a message via his Twitter account over the weekend, advising against taking anti-inflammatory medicines (ibuprofen, cortisone, etc) to treat Covid-19 symptoms, as they could be an aggravating factor for the infection. His advice for those with a fever was to take paracetamol instead. Patients already on anti-inflammatory drugs for other illnesses, or anyone with any questions, are advised to seek advice from their doctor.

Public health interventions like this, with directives specifically citing which OTC medicines to take or not take, are rare and so the story was picked up by major news outlets in the UK (Guardian), USA (New York Times) and elsewhere. According to a report in The Local, Véran’s tweet prompted several members of the public to ask for the source of his reasoning on not taking ibuprofen to treat Covid-19 symptoms.

This is not the first time France has warned against the use of systemic NSAIDs. In April 2019, the country’s medicines body, ANSM, warned that certain anti-inflammatories to treat pain or fever increase the risk of serious complications when suffering from an infection; the regulator shared information with European counterparts on the basis of what it said were 337 cases of infectious complications linked to ibuprofen since 2000.

Reaction to the latest comments has been mixed. Several countries suggested consumers continue to take their preferred pain reliever, including ibuprofen, while some health experts pointed out the lack of published scientific evidence that the virus is worsened by ibuprofen (WHO is silent on the point). Some NSAIDs have previously been contra-indicated in certain countries for other viral infections such as dengue fever (because they may exacerbate internal bleeding), but that may not be relevant to Covid-19. At present, we all await further clarification.

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