(CNN) – France’s Ministry of Health noted that popular anti-inflammatory pain relievers like ibuprofen could worsen the effects of coronavirus, which has raised questions about what over-the-counter medications people should be taking to treat the symptoms of the disease.
Health Minister Olivier Veran, who is also a neurologist, tweeted on Saturday that “taking anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, cortisone …) could be an aggravating factor of the infection. If you have a fever, take acetaminophen. If you are already taking anti-inflammatory medications or have questions, ask your doctor. ”
Their suggestion was criticized by some health experts, as they consider that there is no evidence to show a link between ibuprofen and the negative effects on the coronavirus.
Veran’s recommendation was released the same day the French government reported that “serious adverse effects” related to the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (the family of drugs to which ibuprofen belongs) have been identified. “In patients affected by COVID-19, in potential or confirmed cases.”
“We repeat that the treatment of fever or pain related to COVID-19 or any other viral respiratory disease must be paracetamol,” added the new guidelines from the ministry. Acetaminophen is commonly known in the U.S. as acetaminophen.
Veran’s tweet was widely shared on social media, especially in France, and the council has raised questions about the impact of ibuprofen in treating the virus. CNN contacted the French Ministry of Health for comment.
“Deeply concerned about this bold statement,” Muge Cevik, a researcher with the Division of Infection and Global Health at the University of St. Andrews, said on Twitter. “There is no scientific evidence that I know of that ibuprofen (has worse]consequences with # COVID19 ”.
But other experts say Veran’s advice is consistent with general guidelines given by some countries for anti-inflammatory pain relievers like ibuprofen, although its link to the coronavirus is unclear.
“There is a good reason to avoid ibuprofen, as it can exacerbate acute kidney damage from any serious illness, including COVID-19. There is still no other widely accepted reason to avoid it by COVID-19, ”said Rupert Beale, leader of the Cell Biology of Infection group at the UK’s Francis Crick Institute, speaking to the UK Science Media Center.
Paracetamol, “preferable” than ibuprofen
Ibuprofen, an NSAID, is often used to treat fever, one of the most common symptoms of the virus.
“Most of the deaths COVID-19 have occurred among the elderly and with pre-existing health problems, such as cardiovascular diseases. We already know that NSAIDs should be prescribed with caution to people with underlying health problems, “said Charlotte Warren-Gash, associate professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
France already has stricter rules than other countries regarding the sale of pain relievers, and earlier this year it took medications like paracetamol and ibuprofen from the list of products that can be sold without a prescription.
The National Institute of Excellence in Health and Medical Care in the United Kingdom, meanwhile, recommends prescribing the lowest dose of ibuprofen for the shortest possible time to patients with underlying conditions, to prevent side effects, including cardiovascular or kidney problems. The National Health Service recommends using ibuprofen instead of acetaminophen for inflammatory problems like arthritis, but warns that it should not be taken for long periods.
“In the case of COVID-19, you have to investigate the effects of specific NSAIDs among people with different underlying health conditions, depending on the severity of the infection,” added Warren-Gash.
“Meanwhile, to treat symptoms like fever and sore throat, it seems sensible to use acetaminophen as the first option,” he said.
Tom Wingfield, a professor and medical consultant at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, also advised that “acetaminophen” should be generally preferred to ibuprofen in most cases.
According to Wingfield, paracetamol is less likely to cause side effects than ibuprofen, which causes stomach and kidney irritation for some people.
“From the comments of the French minister, it is not clear whether the advice is a generic ‘good practice’ guide or is specifically related to the data arising from the COVID-19 cases, but this could be clarified over time” , Held.
The coronavirus pandemic has led to heavy restrictions in France and throughout Europe. The country announced on Saturday that it will close restaurants, cafes, movie theaters and clubs in an attempt to increase social distancing.
(With information from CNN’s Barbara Wojazer)