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NICE and EMA to review if Ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatories worsen coronavirus

Published on 19/03/20 at 09:34am
Photo by Wesalius

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the European Medicines Regulatory have both stated that there is currently no evidence anti-inflammatory over the counter drugs worsen symptoms of COVID-19, but will investigate the matter.

In England, NICE and the Committee of Human Medicines, said they will review the evidence to assess how far these drugs affect the symptoms of coronavirus.

Stephen Powis, the Medical Director at NHS England, said in a March 17 letter to staff that there was “no literature on the impact of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) use in COVID-19”, however there was some evidence that they may increase complications from acute respiratory infections.

The letter went on to say that: “In view of the current lack of clarity the Committee of Human Medicines and NICE have been asked to review the evidence. It is therefore suggested that, in the interim, for patients, who have confirmed COVID-19 or believe they have COVID-19, that they use paracetamol in preference to NSAIDs. Those currently taking NSAIDs for other medical reasons should not stop them.”

Esmita Charani, a lead research pharmacist in the department of infectious diseases at Imperial College London, does not believes that NSAIDs worsen coronavirus and has blamed social media for spreading this information. She said: “It’s disheartening to hear so much confusion amongst my pharmacist colleagues who have been in touch with me about what is fact and what is fiction.”

This is a situation that the European Medicines Agency is closely monitoring.  On their website they posted that they are aware of reports of NSAIDs worsening symptoms of coronavirus stating that: “There is currently no scientific evidence establishing a link between ibuprofen and worsening of COVID‑19. EMA is monitoring the situation closely and will review any new information that becomes available on this issue in the context of the pandemic.”

Back in May 2019, the EMA’s safety committee (PRAC) started a review of NSAIDs following a survey by the French National Agency for Medicines and Health Products Safety which suggests that these medicines could make bacterial infections like chickenpox worse.

Currently, the EMA website says, that in line with EU guidelines and NSAID approvals, people can continue taking these drugs. But it urges those who have questions to speak with their doctor. The EMA says it will provide further information once PRAC carries out a further review.

Conor Kavanagh

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