Question & Answer

Does taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, or aspirin make the symptoms of COVID-19 worse?

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  • Ibuprofen is one of a group of drugs known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (abbreviated as NSAIDs). They are often used to help relieve pain and reduce inflammation and reduce fevers.
  • In mid-March 2020, claims circulated on social media linking the use of ibuprofen to a worsening of the ill effects of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease). These claims were made by a number of people and bodies. It followed a letter on March 11, 2020, in The Lancet medical journal, which theorised that NSAIDs increase a particular enzyme (a type of substance that occurs naturally in the body),  and this increase could worsen the symptoms of COVID-19.
  • There is no conclusive evidence linking the use of NSAIDs, like ibuprofen, with worsening symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Until there is more evidence, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE, UK) recommend that people who have confirmed COVID-19, or believe they have COVID-19, should take paracetamol in preference to ibuprofen.
  • Some people take ibuprofen for other illnesses (e.g., arthritis). The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (UK) and the European Medicines Agency recommend that people currently advised to use ibuprofen by their healthcare professional should not stop using them.
  • A number of health agencies are currently investigating the issue by carrying out systematic reviews of the evidence.

Things to Remember

Reviewers

  • Drafted by: Prof Declan Devane, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, Evidence Synthesis Ireland & Cochrane Ireland, NUI Galway.
  • Reviewed by: Dr Tom Conway, HRB Clinical Research Facility HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, NUI Galway
  • Reviewed by: Elaine Finucane, School of Nursing and Midwifery and HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, NUI Galway
  • Evidence Advisor: Prof Andrew Murphy, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, NUI Galway, Health Research Board Primary Care Clinical Trials Network Ireland and General Practitioner principal in a semi-rural setting.
  • Evidence Advisor: Marcus Finucane, Public Evidence Advisor.
  • Evidence Advisor: Dr Claire O’Connell, Journalist, Contributor, The Irish Times.