Covid-19: Confusion over ibuprofen guidance

People have been advised to avoid ibuprofen “at the moment”, the Government’s chief scientific adviser has suggested.

The comments from Sir Patrick Vallance appear to be at odds with information issued yesterday by Public Health England (PHE).

The use of the drug in connection with Covid-19 has come into question in recent days after French health minister Olivier Veran suggested that anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, could worsen the infection.

Speaking at the Health Select Committee, Sir Patrick told MPs: “The ibuprofen example – it may or may not be right, I don’t know – but the sensible thing to do would be to say don’t take it at the moment, take something else – paracetamol or something.”

But yesterday PHE said there is not enough information on ibuprofen use and Covid-19 to advise people to stop using ibuprofen.

PHE said there was no published scientific evidence that ibuprofen increases the risk of catching Covid-19 or makes the illness worse.

“Most people with Covid-19 will have a mild illness and some people may need to take medicines, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, to help with raised temperature, headache and other pains; always follow the instructions on the label if you do take these medicines and do not exceed the stated dose,” it said.

In a statement, Reckitt Benckiser, the makers of Nurofen, said: “Reckitt Benckiser is aware of the ongoing spread of information, mainly through social media channels, concerning the use of steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) products, including ibuprofen, for the alleviation of Covid-19 symptoms.

“Consumer safety is our number one priority. Ibuprofen is a well-established medicine that has been used safely as a self-care fever and pain reducer, including in viral illnesses, for more than 30 years.

“We do not currently believe there is any proven scientific evidence linking over-the-counter use of ibuprofen to the aggravation of Covid-19.

“As with any medicine, we would remind consumers and their caregivers to carefully read and follow the instructions provided on the packaging and in the patient information leaflet. If you have any additional concerns speak to your healthcare provider.

“As a responsible, science-led organisation we are engaging with WHO, EMA and other local health authorities. We will communicate any additional information or guidance necessary for the safe use of our products following any such evaluation.”