GSK Consumer Healthcare, the maker of Advil, is aware of a recent correspondence in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine and comments from the French Ministry of Health that call attention to a potential hypothesis about the possibility of an association between the use of ibuprofen for treating symptoms of COVID-19 and the worsening of the virus’ outcome.
We wish to reinforce the fact that the hypothesis was an idea intended for further scientific review and evaluation – and that it may be confusing to the general public if we draw any clinical conclusions from such a hypothesis. While the hypothesis is well-intentioned, it is not backed by clinical evidence or data, and can therefore be misleading to people who are anxious about what they should and shouldn’t do in the face of the COVID-19 threat.
With that said, the editorial/hypothesis is also an important reminder that we, as healthcare professionals, have a critical role to play as we look to each other and work to make sense of the COVID-19 challenge and set a new scientific course for its treatment and management.
We are uniquely poised to be especially observant, searching for patterns or empirical insights. We can and should share ideas and inspire scientific exchange where it belongs – among clinicians and medical communities. During these frightening times, we must also be focused on education and facts, especially when data is absent. Health professionals are well-positioned to readily and reliably reinforce public messaging, manage rumors and misinformation, and help push out credible information to increase awareness and minimize confusion and fear.
We appreciate people are concerned about the use of ibuprofen and COVID-19. Our patients, families and friends need facts and guidance. While GSK will do everything we can to support further research into hypotheses that include our products, until there is evidence or medical consensus, we need to keep hypotheses in perspective and reassure people that there is no conclusive evidence that COVID-19 symptoms are worsened by ibuprofen.
Here is what we know:
A communication recently published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine sought to summarize associations between cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and COVID-19 observed in Wuhan. The authors suggested the disease states and medications used in their management may be associated with worse outcomes from COVID-19. The authors cited receptor modeling in an attempt to predict the ACE2 interactions of SARS-CoV-2. They hypothesize the expression of ACE2 was substantially increased in patients treated with angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs). They also implicated ibuprofen and thiazolidinediones in the upregulation of ACE2. In evaluating the link between the comorbidities and COVID-19, Fang et al made assumptions regarding pharmacological interventions. Actual treatment with ACEi or ARBs was not assessed in the 3 primary publications and this should be considered when interpreting the applicability of this information.
This theory regarding the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) products specifically ibuprofen worsening COVID-19 symptoms is without clinical evidence and has caused considerable confusion and controversy within the media and on social media channels.
This is an emerging and rapidly evolving situation and because consumer safety is our foremost priority, we are closely monitoring independent statements from respected public health authorities and medical experts.
The WHO does not recommend against the use of ibuprofen and is not aware of reports of any negative effects of ibuprofen beyond the usual known side effects that limit its use in certain populations. The CDC is currently not aware of scientific evidence establishing a link between NSAIDs and worsening of COVID 19. Additionally, the majority of credentialed international health authorities continue to support the use of ibuprofen to treat the symptoms of COVID-19.
Based on the best science available to us today about ibuprofen, including its well-established safety record, we encourage physicians to confidently provide their patients with guidance about the appropriate use of ibuprofen as a fever and pain reducer.
We will continue to monitor the situation and provide you with updates as they come in. As always, we remain committed to providing balanced information about our medicines, maintaining transparency about our work, and always putting the interests of people who rely on our medicines first.