Ibuprofen: Government updates advice on taking painkiller for coronavirus – is it safe?

Coronavirus and taking ibuprofen was said to hold a risk in advice published in March. The NHS stated at the time: “There is no strong evidence that ibuprofen can make coronavirus worse. But until we have more information, take paracetamol to treat the symptoms of coronavirus, unless your doctor has told you paracetamol is not suitable for you.


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“If you are already taking ibuprofen or another anon-steroidal anti-inflammatory on the advice of a doctor, do not stop taking it without checking first.”

Now the UK Government has issued new advice on ibuprofen and COVID-19.

The UK’s Commission on Human Medicines (CHM) has concluded there is insufficient evidence that taking ibuprofen increases the risk of catching COVID-19 or worsens symptoms.

As such, patients can take both paracetamol and ibuprofen to treat coronavirus symptoms.

The Government’s website reads: “The Commission on Human Medicines (CHM) Expert Working Group on coronavirus has concluded that there is currently insufficient evidence to establish a link between use of ibuprofen, or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and susceptibility to contracting COVID-19 or the worsening of its symptoms.

“Patients can take paracetamol or ibuprofen when self-medicating for symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever and headache, and should follow NHS advice if they have any questions or if symptoms get worse.”

Taking ibuprofen was previously advised against following a Tweet from the French Health Minister, a theoretical publication in the Lancet and unverified accounts of people getting worse after taking the painkiller.

Dr Bruce Charlesworth, Chief Medical Officer, Health at RB, told Express.co.uk: “All of these things happened in a similar timeframe, there was a knee-jerk reaction and amplification of the rumours through social media.

“This highlights the challenge with social media and the sharing of unverified information.”

Speaking on the dangers of taking ibuprofen for coronavirus symptoms suggested before, Dr Charlesworth said it is clear any “danger” was based on speculation.

He said: “The same could be said for any drug as medicines are under constant surveillance and COVID-19 is a new disease.”

So when should you take ibuprofen for COVID-19?


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Dr Charlesworth advised: “The most common usage in COVID-19 will be the control of pain or fever.

“Patients should always read the patient information leaflet when taking any over-the-counter medicine.

“All such medicines should be used in accordance with the instructions provided.”

The most common over-the-counter adult dose of ibuprofen is one to two 200mg tablets three times a day, but patients should always use the lowest effective dose for the shortest duration necessary to control symptoms.

Dr Bill Laughey of Hull York Medical School also concluded: “There have been some studies that have linked the taking of anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen to the possibility of chest infections becoming more severe. There is disagreement as to how conclusive these studies are, partly because it could be the case that people with more severe symptoms may be more likely to take an anti-inflammatory in the first place.

“As such, it hasn’t been normal practice in the UK to generally advise against using anti-inflammatory medication for people who have symptoms of respiratory infections, assuming there are no contra indications for taking an anti-infammatory.

“In the case of COVID-19 we have no data to say whether anti-inflammatory medication worsens or benefits the outcomes of this specific infection. The research isn’t there as yet. The latest advice from the Commission on Human Medicine is really simply saying that it is reasonable to do as we did before for the symptoms of viral infections. That means medicines like paracetamol (a good first choice for many people) or ibuprofen can still be used for the control of symptoms like headache, other pains and feverish symptoms.

“People may choose to take ibuprofen if they have no contra indications and they are needing relief of symptoms like pain and headache. Ibuprofen can be helpful in reducing fever: it isn’t always necessary to reduce a fever, some experts argue the fever is part of the process of clearing an infection, but reducing a fever can have added importance for some people like children who are prone to febrile convulsions.

Like any medication, I would say use ibuprofen only if you feel it is needed for your symptoms, if you have no contra indications for use and use it in the lowest effective dose in line with the instructions that will be found with the packaging.”

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