Anti-inflammatories may aggravate Covid-19, France advises

French minister says patients should take paracetamol rather than ibuprofen or cortisone

Kim Willsher

Sat 14 Mar 2020 11.51 EDT First published on Sat 14 Mar 2020 11.47 EDT

Anti-inflammatory drugs are known to be a risk for those with infectious illnesses because they tend to diminish the body’s immune response. Photograph: Alamy

French authorities have warned that widely used over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs may worsen the coronavirus.

The country’s health minister, Olivier Véran, who is a qualified doctor and neurologist, tweeted on Saturday: “The taking of anti-inflammatories [ibuprofen, cortisone … ] could be a factor in aggravating the infection. In case of fever, take paracetamol. If you are already taking anti-inflammatory drugs, ask your doctor’s advice.”

Health officials point out that anti-inflammatory drugs are known to be a risk for those with infectious illnesses because they tend to diminish the response of the body’s immune system.

The health ministry added that patients should choose paracetamol – which is known in the US by the generic name acetaminophen and commonly by the brand name Tylenol – because “it will reduce the fever without counterattacking the inflammation”.

French patients have been forced to consult pharmacies since mid-January if they want to buy popular painkillers, including ibuprofen, paracetamol and aspirin, to be reminded of the risks.

Jean-Louis Montastruc, the head of pharmacology at Toulouse hospital, told RTL radio: “Anti-inflammatory drugs increase the risk of complications when there is a fever or infection.”

The French health ministry announced on Friday evening that the number of coronavirus case in the country had increased by 800 in 24 hours. Véran said there were 3,661 confirmed cases that had lead to 79 deaths. Of the sick, 154 people are in intensive care.

Véran said in his daily briefing that the evolution and spread of the virus was “rapid and real”, but that 98% of those who had tested positive had recovered.

The Eiffel Tower, Château de Versailles, Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and Centre Pompidou are among the public attractions that have closed. The archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, said there would be no Sunday masses held in churches in the Paris region.

About 400 gilets jaunes, or yellow vests, gathered in Paris for “Act 70”, the 70th consecutive Saturday of protests since November 2018. An authorised march from Montparnasse station to Bercy, where the economy ministry is situated, is expected to go ahead. Public gatherings of more than 100 people have been banned in France, but it has been reported that demonstrations are exempt.

Schools closed across the country after lessons on Saturday, meaning 12.4 million students will remain at home. The education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, has said they will be expected to follow the national curriculum syllabus by internet. “This coming period is not one in which the youngsters don’t have to work,” he told BFMTV.

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