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Update about Ibuprofen and the World Health Organization

March 19: Weekly COVID-19 Update, Volume 5

In our March 18 update, we reported that a spokesperson from the World Health Organization (WHO) had recommended in a Science Alert that people with COVID-19 symptoms avoid taking ibuprofen as a self-treatment for fever. Since the publication of that update, WHO has clarified its advice on its official Twitter account as follows, “Based on currently available information, WHO does not recommend against the use of ibuprofen.”

The UK’s National Health Service and France’s Health Minister continue to recommend that patients AVOID ibuprofen as a fever-relievers — and instead use acetaminophen (also called paracetamol in some countries). The BaleDoneen Method and the Heart Attack & Stroke Prevention Center continue to STRONGLY concur with this advice. We also stand by all of the other information in our March 18 update, “Facts and Myths about Ibuprofen, Low-dose Aspirin ad COVID-19,” which will be updated to reflect WHO’s clarification of its stance.

For more than a decade, we have advised our patients to avoid long-term use of certain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including ibuprofen, based on large studies linking their use to increased risk for stroke. Acetaminophen is NOT an NSAID — and is not linked to increased risk for stroke — but is equally effective as ibuprofen as a home treatment for fever. Therefore it is the safer fever-reliever, especially for patients with cardiovascular disease, a condition that affects nearly 50 percent of U.S. adults, many of whom are undiagnosed and untreated.

As we previously stated, it is also important to know that the NHS is NOT advising the use of acetaminophen (Tylenol) to PREVENT COVID-19, just to treat its symptoms, such as fever or flu-like aches and pains. NHS also states on its website that while, “there is currently no strong evidence that ibuprofen can make coronavirus (Covid-19) worse … until we have more information, take paracetamol [acetaminophen] to treat the symptoms of coronavirus, unless your doctor has told you paracetamol is not suitable for you.” To date, no studies have been done on the effects of ibuprofen on COVID-19 symptoms or severity.

We also advise patients whose medical providers have prescribed NSAIDs for other conditions NOT to stop their treatment unless advised to do so by their providers. Other than updating WHO’s stance on ibuprofen, we continue to strongly stand by everything stated in our March 18 update, which also includes a helpful list of resources that patients with heart or arterial disease can use to keep updated about COVID-19.