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Current Affairs

Ibuprofen and COVID-19

Date: 19 March 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

The health minister of France, Olivier Véran, has issued a blunt warning about painkillers taken by people ill with the coronavirus, especially to stay away from drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin.

 

Background

The So-called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen worsened symptoms of the illness caused by the coronavirus, according to the health minister.

 

Details

  • Some patients had experienced serious adverse effects while taking the drugs, known as NSAIDs, which should not be used in these patients.

  • The advice left many medical experts scratching their heads. The coronavirus is a new pathogen, and little is known about the disease it causes, called COVID-19, or how patients respond to common medications.

  • The Minister’s warning followed a letter published in The Lancet. The letter’s authors proposed that certain drugs increase the number of so-called ACE2 receptors on the surfaces of cells.

  • The coronavirus uses these receptors to infect cells, the authors noted, and so in theory patients taking the drugs might be more vulnerable to the virus. One of the drugs was ibuprofen. But researchers say there is no such proof.

  • There are reasons to worry about long-term, heavy use of NSAIDs, which have been linked an increased risk of kidney damage in some patients. People taking blood thinners also should avoid NSAIDs.

  • But for infectious disease specialists, the greater concern is that when NSAIDs and acetaminophen reduce fever, patients may be more comfortable but their lower temperatures can short-circuit the body’s main defense against infection.

  • Studies have found that if people infected with a variety of viruses and other microorganisms bring their fevers down, with NSAIDs or with acetaminophen, their symptoms may last longer and they continue to shed virus for a longer time, meaning they may be contagious for longer periods.

There is at least a theoretical danger the fever-reducers, including acetaminophen, may have a similar effect in patients ill with the coronavirus. It might be reasonable for a person infected with the coronavirus to avoid both kinds of painkillers.