If you are on ibuprofen, do not stop because of Covid-19 – EMA

Paracetamol is first medication of choice if you develop high temperature

There is significant confusion about whether it is safe to take anti -inflammatory drugs if you develop symptoms of coronavirus infection. This is primarily due to online rumours but there has also been some divergent medical advice on the issue.

There are many non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) licensed for use. They are commonly used to treat arthritis and sports injuries. Ibuprofen and ketoprofen are some of the common drug names.

Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs have a temperature-reducing action as well as being anti-inflammatories. But they are not suitable for everyone. People with heart disease and asthma should not take these drugs for a prolonged period.

The confusion about the safety of NSAIDs in people with Covid-19 originally arose in May 2019 when the French medicines safety agency informed the European Medicines Agency (EMA) of survey results suggesting that NSAIDs could worsen infections such as chickenpox. The EMA responded by initiating a review of all scientific data to see if any additional prescribing restrictions were needed. That review is ongoing.


The agency issued the following advice on Wednesday: “In line with EU national treatment guidelines, patients and healthcare professionals can continue using NSAIDs (like ibuprofen) as per the approved product information. Current advice includes that these medicines are used at the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible period.

“There is currently no reason for patients taking ibuprofen to interrupt their treatment. . . This is particularly important for patients taking ibuprofen or other NSAID medicines for chronic disease,” it added.

At present there is no evidence to suggest that NSAIDs have a particular effect on the severity or length of illnesses caused by coronavirus.

The EMA also referenced current treatment guidelines, most of which recommend paracetamol as the first choice medication for high temperature and pain. This advice has also been issued by the chief clinical officer of the HSE, Dr Colm Henry.

So there are two clear messages for readers:

First, if you are taking ibuprofen or its sister drugs for a chronic illness, do not stop taking the medication.

Second, if you develop a high temperature – which in current circumstances could be an indication you have a coronavirus infection– choose paracetamol as your first choice medication. Although there is no proven scientific evidence to suggest they may be harmful for patients with Covid-19, it is best to keep NSAIDs as a second-line treatment option.