People are panic buying ibuprofen, but World Health Organization warns it may make COVID-19 worse
Pain relievers are among the items people are panic buying as coronavirus spreads. But the World Health Organization is saying ibuprofen, which includes leading brands Advil and Motrin, could actually make COVID-19 worse.
WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters yesterday the organization recommends people not use ibuprofen. That followed a warning by France’s Health Minister Olivier Véran, based on a study in The Lancet medical journal, which hypothesized that anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen could boost an enzyme in the body that makes COVID-19 infections worse.
WHO experts are looking into further guidance, but Lindmeier was quoted in press reports as recommending people use paracetamol, also known as acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. “Do not use ibuprofen as a self medication,” he said. "That’s important.”
Both Veran and WHO said patients already being treated with anti-inflammatory drugs should ask advice from their doctors.
In a statement, Advil's marketer said: “GSK Consumer Healthcare is not aware of any conclusive evidence that ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatories may worsen the outcome in patients suffering from COVID-19 infection. This is an emerging and rapidly evolving situation, and because consumer safety is our number one priority, we are closely monitoring statements from public health authorities and medical experts.”
GSK added that ibuprofen “has been used safely for many years as a fever and pain reducer and is strictly regulated to ensure it complies with local healthcare authority requirements.”
GSK and Johnson & Johnson, marketer of Motrin and Tylenol, advised people to talk to their doctors about the issue. “Global health authorities will be providing guidance to their citizens regarding the use of certain medications in COVID-19,” J&J said in a statement.
Sales of all internal analgesics spiked 132 percent the week ended March 14 vs. the year-ago period, according to data from Catalina. Sales of children’s analgesics soared at an even faster 232 percent. It’s not clear how that broke down between ibuprofen and other medications.
Multi-symptom cough/cold/flu medications were also popular in coronavirus stock-up trips—bought by 23 percent of people making coronavirus-related purchases, according to a March 10 survey by store audit firm Field Agent. But ingredient labels for most of these products list acetaminophen rather than ibuprofen as the pain-relief ingredient.