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.
⚠️ #COVIDー19 | La prise d’anti-inflammatoires (ibuprofène, cortisone, …) pourrait être un facteur d’aggravation de l’infection. En cas de fièvre, prenez du paracétamol.
Si vous êtes déjà sous anti-inflammatoires ou en cas de doute, demandez conseil à votre médecin.
— Olivier Véran (@olivierveran) March 14, 2020
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. The main concern appears to be that anti-inflammatories have an “immunosuppressive effect“, plus the background in France is that medicines agency ANSM has already removed medicines containing paracetamol, ibuprofen and / or aspirin from the self-selection list in January 2020 to reinforce the advisory role of the pharmacist and guarantee safe use.
Meanwhile, the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on sales and availability of painkillers in other markets is already becoming evident, with UK retailer Boots imposing a limit of two items per customer on cough & cold and pain medicines and US marketer J&J reporting a spike in demand for its Tylenol range and other self-care products. In the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, and India’s decision last week to restrict the export of some ingredients (including paracetamol), there have been fears of shortages and disruptions to supply chains, but J&J said it did not anticipate a shortage of Tylenol and that it was taking all possible measures to maximise availability of its consumer healthcare range.
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