Anti-inflammatory drugs could worsen COVID-19 symptoms, France warns

TORONTO — Popular medications that may be taken in the hope of fighting COVID-19 could in fact make symptoms worse, France’s health minister says.

Olivier Veran tweeted Saturday that ibuprofen, cortisone and other common anti-inflammatory drugs could be an “aggravating factor” for the new coronavirus.

He recommended that anyone concerned about a fever instead treat it with paracetamol, which is also known as acetaminophen. Anyone already taking anti-inflammatory drugs for other reasons should seek advice from their doctor, Veran said.

Non-prescription drugs containing either anti-inflammatory agents or acetaminophen were moved behind the counter in France in January. This shift had nothing to do with COVID-19. It came about because of government concern around several known risks of the medications, including the complication of infections.

In Canada, where these medications remain available on store shelves, the Public Health Agency of Canada has recommended that anyone in self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic have both acetaminophen and ibuprofen with them in case of fever.

The World Health Organization has said that there is no specific medicine recommended for treating the virus at this point. Its advice notes that acetaminophen, ibuprofen and aspirin all “may mask symptoms of infection” but does not specifically recommend that any be taken or avoided in a specific situation.

There had been nearly 4,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in France as of Sunday. Popular landmarks including the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre have been closed, as have schools, but French authorities have yet to impose lockdowns or other severe measures similar to those seen in its hard-hit neighbours, Italy and Spain.


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