As pandemic coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues to accelerate, the French Health Minister, Olivier Véran, has confused matters by claiming on Twitter that anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or cortisone could aggravate the infection. However, scientific evidence does not indicate that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) consumption puts patients who otherwise might have mild or asymptomatic infection by severe acute respiratory syndrome–coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)—the virus that causes COVID-19—at risk of more severe disease. People taking NSAIDs for other reasons should not stop doing so for fear of increasing their COVID-19 risk.
NSAIDs work by suppressing prostaglandin synthases 1 and 2, colloquially known as COX-1 and COX-2. These enzymes produce prostaglandins (PGs), lipids that can trigger pain and fever. COX-2 produces most of the PGs relevant to pain and inflammation. NSAIDs selective for inhibiting COX-2 include celecoxib and diclofenac; ibuprofen is an NSAID that blocks both COXs. Minister Véran advised people to take paracetamol (acetaminophen) instead to treat a fever, but this guidance only adds to the confusion given that acetaminophen is also an NSAID.