A viral text warns taking Advil could make COVID-19 symptoms worse, but experts say it’s unfounded

A viral coronavirus rumor says that the use of ibuprofen, which GlaxoSmithKline markets as Advil, can worsen the symptoms of COVID-19. The message spreads via text messages and via Twitter, claiming to come from a Viennese laboratory that studies COVID-19.

The problem is, there is no evidence that it is true. Not enough research has been done on ibuprofen in COVID-19 patients to determine whether it is actually harmful. An alternative is acetaminophen, which is marketed as Tylenol by Johnson & Johnson. But not everyone can use it because it can make some liver conditions worse.

“The vast majority of people who died had ibuprofen / Advil in their system, so don’t take it !!” reads the message. “Those who recovered did not use ibuprofen, so if you have any symptoms, just take Paracetamol !!! Looks like this virus thrives on ibuprofen so don’t do it and tell everyone you can !!! “

The telltale signs of misinformation are all over the Advil rumor. Many of the reports claim to come from someone’s friend or sister who is a nurse at New York University. She seems to have first-hand knowledge of the mysterious Viennese laboratory. Due to the vague attribution, the information is difficult to detect. The message also ends with a plea: tell everyone you know! Pass it on! This type of urgent request takes advantage of the need for concrete information and the desire we have for protecting each other.

Like the most effective misinformation, the message combines bits of truth with outright lies. For example, the French Minister of Health tweeted a warning that “the use of anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, cortisone, …) may be a factor in aggravating the infection”, Stephanie M. Lee wrote of BuzzFeed.

The warning sounded a letter to The Lancet, a medical journal, on March 11. There, researchers claimed that taking certain medications – including ibuprofen – could make people more susceptible to the virus.

But experts refuted these claims. Michele Barry, director of the Center for Innovation in Global Health at Stanford University, told The New York Times that there was simply no data to back up. Garret FitzGerald of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, told it Times, “It’s all anecdote and fake news from the anecdotes. That’s the world we live in.”

However, the rumor gained enough traction that GlaxoSmithKline has issued a statement refute the claims. The statement will now appear when you go to the website for Advil. “We understand that the use of steroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) products, including ibuprofen, to alleviate COVID-19 symptoms has been questioned,” the statement said. “As a leader in the OTC pain category, GSK Consumer Healthcare is unaware of any scientific evidence linking worse outcomes in patients suffering from COVID-19 infection directly to the use of ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory drugs.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) said The edge that it is not aware of any research showing that ibuprofen may be dangerous to COVID-19 patients. “We are in discussions with physicians treating COVID-19 patients and are not aware of any reports of any adverse effects from ibuprofen, other than the usual known side effects that limit its use in certain populations,” said a spokesman for the United States. WHO in an email statement. “Based on currently available information, the WHO does not recommend the use of ibuprofen.”

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