Does Advil Make COVID-19 Symptoms Worse?

Covid-19 Advil Warning Message

There’s a pandemic taking hold all around the world right now. That pandemic is called COVID-19, which stands for Corona Virus Disease 2019. As in any type of disaster situation, there is a lot of rumors swirling around both online and phone-messages.

Most recently, a viral message in video format has been spreading through direct messages. The message, which claims to have been relayed from ‘Vienna’s laboratory studying COVID-19’ makes claims that people who use Advil to alleviate the symptoms of COVID-19 are actually making their condition worse. Naturally, people are spreading this message believing that it is coming from a credible source because they want to help others in this time of need.

But is there more to the video? Let’s find out.

The Video in Question.


Garage Logic Advil

The video in question is a two-minute clip of the Garage Logic podcast. In the clip, which was recorded from a cell phone aimed at a computer monitor, Joe Soucheray states that he heard from a friend who heard from a Doctor in Vienna that people who use Advil are showing worse symptoms than those who used Tylenol instead. He goes on to urge people to tell their friends and family to stay away from Advil and other anti-inflammatory medications during the current pandemic. If you haven’t received the short clip in either your text message inbox or over a social media platform yet, you probably will soon. We were unable to locate a version of the video posted to the general public, so we are choosing to not embed the clip.

We attempted to search for this exact segment of the Podcast, but could not find the episode that this clip was recorded from in any of the recent Garage Logic episodes. If anyone is a frequent listener of Garage Logic, please send us a message with a link to the full episode for us to link to. Here’s a link to the podcast itself. For now, however, it seems like this short clip is only being circulated from person to person through direct message at this time.

What the Experts Say.

Any way you look at this, there’s going to be people on both sides of the fence. We’re not the experts. We’re not claiming to be experts, or even to know experts. Hell, we’re not even claiming that our Aunt’s Friend’s cousin-in-law knows an expert. We’re people, just like you, who are concerned about the state of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.

So, this is what we’ve done. We’ve gone to a bunch of different web-pages with information from both sides of this, and we’ve done some reading. Below, we’re going to show you the research we found, and let you click through to those stories yourself to make a decision if you feel the need to. That said, we advise against making a decision at all unless you’re a professional microbiologist who specializes in viral infections. We should all be leaving that to the experts right now.

You wouldn’t take shooting advice from the quasi-anti-gun administrative clerk working the desk would you? That’s why we’re not taking the advice of our friend’s aunt who knows a guy who’s friends with an expert in a foreign country.

Articles Stating Advil Has No Negative Impact.

On March 14, Olivier Veran, the Health Minister of France, tweeted out that there was a possibility that anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil could make COVID-19 symptoms worse. Later, in an interview with the New York Times, Dr. Michele Barry, director of the Center for Innovation in Global Health at Stanford University stated that there was no evidence to back up those claims.

In the same article Dr. Garret FitzGerald from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, told the New York Times, “It’s all anecdote, and fake news of the anecdotes. That’s the world we are living in.” In another article from the Verge this sentiment was parroted by the World Health Organization. “We are consulting with physicians treating COVID-19 patients and are not aware of reports of any negative effects of ibuprofen, beyond the usual known side effects that limit its use in certain populations,” a WHO spokesperson said in an emailed statement to a Journalist at The Verge. “Based on currently available information, WHO does not recommend against the use of ibuprofen.”

The rumor has spread so far that Advil has even posted a pop-up notification when you visit their web-page. You can find that at this link. The pop-up from GSK, the maker of Advil, states, “As a leader in the OTC pain category, GSK Consumer Healthcare is not aware of any scientific evidence that directly links worse outcomes in patients suffering from COVID-19 infection with the use of ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatories.”

Articles Stating Advil Makes Symptoms Worse.

Outside of the previously mentioned tweet from the Olivier Veran, and a single document submitted to and published by The Lancet, not much has actually been published on this that we were able to find. We will update this post if and when more evidence becomes available.

In the single-page document submitted and published by The Lancet Ibuprofen and anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil are only mentioned once. Here’s the excerpt word-for-word.

Human pathogenic coronaviruses (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus [SARS-CoV] and SARSCoV-2) bind to their target cells through angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), which is expressed by epithelial cells of the lung, intestine, kidney, and blood vessels.4 The expression of ACE2 is substantially increased in patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, who are treated with ACE inhibitors and angiotensin II type-I receptor blockers (ARBs).4 Hypertension is also treated with ACE inhibitors and ARBs, which results in an upregulation of ACE2.5 ACE2 can also be increased by thiazolidinediones and ibuprofen. These data suggest that ACE2 expression is increased in diabetes and treatment with ACE inhibitors and ARBs increases ACE2 expression. Consequently, the increased expression of ACE2 would facilitate infection with COVID-19. We therefore hypothesise that diabetes and hypertension treatment with ACE2-stimulating drugs increases the risk of developing severe and fatal COVID-19.

Our Take on the Viral Video Message.

Our take on this situation is simple. The truth of the matter with things like this generally sits somewhere in the middle. When you have groups on two different sides of a fence screaming about something, you can generally determine that neither party is 100% correct in their stance. As more research on COVID-19 is published, and a more concrete answer to this situation becomes available direct from credible sources, we’ll update this post with that information.

We’re not taking sides on this one. If you are in the small camp of people with liver issues who can’t use alternatives to ibuprofen like Tylenol, then we recommend that for the time being, you continue to medicate as normal. When news like this breaks, and it comes from an even remotely quasi-questionable source, you need to question it and do your own research. We’ve given you the tools above to do that research, and we encourage you to follow the links through to find your answer.

We’ll update this post with new links and information as those things become available. Until then, there is one concrete thing we can say. Stay at home. If you need to purchase any type of medication, use AMAZON to do it. It’ll keep you away from people, and as a result lower your risk of infection.

Possible Solutions

If you think you don’t want to take a risk on Advil, you can substitute it with acetaminophens like Tylenol or Panadol.  These will also help reduce a fever that is commonly found with COVID-19. However, before taking any medication you should always check with your health care professional and not take the advice of some website.

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