New Delhi: The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has issued an advisory that encourages hypertension, diabetes and heart disease patients to opt for paracetamol instead of ibuprofen for pain relief while the Covid-19 pandemic is underway.
The advice from India’s apex agency for biomedical research follows a letter published on 11 March in the medical journal Lancet Respiratory Medicine that suggested the consumption of ibuprofen could “aggravate” Covid-19 infection in diabetes and hypertension patients.
The letter was written by three researchers from the University of Basel and University Hospital Basel in Switzerland, and Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece.
On 25 March, the ICMR posted frequently asked questions (FAQs) “for patients with hypertension, diabetes and heart diseases in view of coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic” on its website. One of the questions seeks a reply for medicines advisable for pain and fever, to which the ICMR replies, “Some type of painkillers, called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), like Ibuprofen is found to worsen the Covid-19. Such drugs are known to be harmful to heart failure patients and may increase your risk of kidney damage. Avoid NSAIDs or take them only when prescribed by your doctor.”
“Paracetamol is one of the safest pain killers to use if needed,” the ICMR adds.
Covid-19, a disease that has killed thousands around the world since it was first reported in December 2019, has been known to be lethal for patients with comorbidities, or other conditions like diabetes and hypertension.
Ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory drug, and paracetamol are both known to tackle fever and relieve pain.
In the letter published in Lancet Respiratory Medicine, the authors noted that “since ibuprofen increases an enzyme through which novel virus, named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), binds to target cells, its use could potentially facilitate infection with COVID-19”.
In its wake, French Health Minister Olivier Véran tweeted an advice against the consumption of ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatories because they could be “an aggravating factor” in Covid-19 infections.
However, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) of the European Union said last week that “there is currently no scientific evidence establishing a link between ibuprofen and worsening of COVID‑19”.
Similarly, the American health regulator Food & Drugs Administration (FDA) has said “there is not enough scientific evidence to link the use of NSAIDs to worsening symptoms of COVID-19”.