Top health official pushes back against theory that ibuprofen worsens coronavirus

Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the faces of the Trump administration’s coronavirus response, is pushing back against warnings that an anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen could worsen the effects of the infection. 

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Wednesday that the suggestion was a “little bit urban legend” and that there was no “solid evidence” to support the theory after France’s health minister urged people to avoid the drug. 

“I think it was a conflating of some medical issues … may be true, may not, but there’s no good scientific evidence that says ibuprofen can make coronavirus worse,” Fauci said while appearing on Barstool Sports’ “Pardon My Take” podcast.  

French Health Minister Olivier Veran raised alarms last week after sharing a tweet urging people against taking drugs like ibuprofen and cortisone, saying that it “could be a factor in worsening the infection.”

Veran called for people to take paracetamol if they were experiencing a fever and advised people already taking anti-inflammatory drugs to seek guidance from a doctor. 

The tweet, which helped lead to many stories about the drug and its potential effects, had been shared more than 43,000 times as of Wednesday afternoon.

The warning came in response to a letter published by the Lancet medical journal that hypothesized that an enzyme boosted by anti-inflammatory drugs could inflame and exacerbate coronavirus infections. 

Christian Lindmeier, a spokesman for the World Health Organization, told reporters on Tuesday that health experts with the United Nations were reviewing the letter, according to Agence France-Presse.

“In the meantime, we recommend using rather paracetamol, and do not use ibuprofen as a self-medication. That’s important,” he said, adding that prescriptions of ibuprofen would be left to health professionals. 

But many health experts have said that there is no research to back up the theory that ibuprofen is dangerous for coronavirus patients. 

“More research is needed to evaluate reports that ibruprofen may affect the course of COVID-19,” the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases told the Los Angeles Times.“Currently, there is no evidence that ibuprofen increases the risk of serious complications or of acquiring the virus that causes COVID-19.”

Ibuprofen is a drug typically used to treat fevers and pain. It is sold under brands such as Nurofen and Advil. The British pharmaceutical company Reckitt Benckiser, which makes Nurofen, told AFP that it does “not currently believe there is any proven scientific evidence linking over-the-counter use of ibuprofen to the aggravation of COVID-19.”

The outbreak of a novel coronavirus first appeared in China in December and has since infected more than 200,000 people worldwide, putting a strain on governments and health care systems trying to address its spread.

Fauci has helped lead the U.S. response, and he has frequently used media appearances to urge people to take necessary health precautions. While speaking on “Pardon My Take,” he said that the “safest thing” to do when someone has a fever is to take Tylenol.  

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