Photo by Maureen Noce Photography

Amidst the chaos of COVID-19 news and propaganda of what you can do to prevent and treat the virus, there have been reports that ibuprofen should not be used if you test positive for COVID-19.

What is ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) is an over-the-counter medicine from a class of drugs called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).  Ibuprofen is used to treat a multitude of aches and pains and is also used to reduce fevers.  It is a common medication used during illness to help bring down a fever as an alternative to acetaminophen (Tylenol®).

What are the concerns about ibuprofen and COVID-19?

The initial concern for use of ibuprofen in COVID-19 patients came from a spokesperson in France stating that ibuprofen could aggravate symptoms of COVID-19.  

Since this statement was made, many physicians and researchers have offered their own speculations and perspectives until this could be further investigated.

potential mechanism for ibuprofen worsening COVID-19 symptoms is that ibuprofen may increase the expression of an enzyme called ACE2.  This is the same enzyme that the virus attaches itself to when infecting cells. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a statement saying: “At present, based on currently available information, WHO does not recommend against the use of ibuprofen”.

This means that there is currently no solid evidence showing any negative effects of ibuprofen on patients with COVID-19.  

Many physicians and pharmacists are continuing to suggest acetaminophen as an appropriate and effective alternative for treatment of fevers or aches associated with COVID-19 until we know more.  Patients taking ibuprofen for chronic medical conditions should continue taking them unless advised otherwise from their physician.

This post was co-authored by Stephanie Liu, MD, MSc, CCFP, BHSc and Erin Manchuk, BScPharm, BCGP.