No evidence yet that ibuprofen increases coronavirus infection risk

WHO 1

A letter published in The Lancet claimed that ibuprofen increases the number of ACE2 receptors that novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) uses to infect cells. On March 19, WHO tweeted saying based on current information it “does not recommend against the use of ibuprofen” to bring down a fever in people.

In two tweets on March 19, the World Health Organization said that based on scientific information currently available, the WHO “does not recommend against the use of ibuprofen” to bring down a fever in people. Ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug. The global body also said: “WHO is aware of concerns on the use of ibuprofen for the treatment of fever for people with COVID-19. We are consulting with physicians treating the patients and are not aware of reports of any negative effects, beyond the usual ones that limit its use in certain populations.”

According to a letter published on March 11 in the journal The Lancet, the authors had claimed without providing any data that certain drugs including ibuprofen increases the number of ACE2 receptors on human cells that novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) uses to gain entry into epithelial cells of the lung, intestine, kidney, and blood vessels. The letter also said that diabetes increases the number of ACE2 receptors.

Since in theory, ibuprofen increases the number of ACE2 receptors on human cells, patients taking the drug might be more vulnerable to infection with novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). The letter also said ACE-2-stimulating drugs “increases the risk of developing severe and fatal COVID-19”.

Letters published in any journal, The Lancet included, are not peer-reviewed. Hence, any claims made in a letter should be treated with abundant caution.

“It’s all anecdote, and fake news off the anecdotes,” Dr. Garret FitzGerald, chair of the department of pharmacology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania told The New York Times. “Until there is evidence, there is no reason at all to be issuing public health guidance” about non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and the coronavirus.

Published in The Hindu on March 19, 2020

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