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Everyone thought ibuprofen made coronavirus worse – now it’s being studied as a therapy

Published Jun 4th, 2020 2:44PM EDT
coronavirus ibuprofen
Image: Olaf Heil/imageBROKER/Shutterstock

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  • A coronavirus trial seeks to determine if ibuprofen can have a positive effect, or even prevent a COVID-19 infection.
  • Ibuprofen can be helpful in certain respiratory illnesses, and researchers want to see whether or not it’s also beneficial for coronavirus cases.
  • The results may not be available until early 2021.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, doctors and researchers have been working feverishly to come up with a treatment to either cure COVID-19, prevent it, or mitigate the symptoms. There is no cure as of yet, but there have been a number of interesting drug trials using existing medications that range from promising to laughably bad.

Now, scientists are reaching for our home medicine cabinets in an effort to find a drug that could possibly protect against the infection. Ibuprofen, the painkiller sold as a generic or under brand names such as Advil, is the subject of new trials by doctors in the UK.

The research is based on the fact that ibuprofen has been shown to be effective in aiding people suffering from certain other respiratory illnesses. Since coronavirus can have detrimental effects on the lungs, it makes sense that it could provide some kind of relief or protection from the airway-attacking viral infection. The irony, of course, is that in the early days of the pandemic people thought NSAIDs like ibuprofen might actually exacerbate COVID-19.

Still, while doctors may expect one thing, conducting research to determine whether or not those assumptions hold up is important. The researchers note that there’s currently no documentation that says one way or another whether ibuprofen can help.

Our search did not identify any strong evidence for or against the use of ibuprofen for treatment of COVID-19 specifically. The current literature does not give conclusive evidence for or against the use of NSAIDs in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

The trials will take some time, and the researchers don’t expect to have the research finished until September of this year, with the study to follow in May of 2021. That’s a long time to wait to find out if the common painkiller can effectively combat COVID-19, but with scientists suggesting that we may end up dealing with this new coronavirus on an annual basis, it’s definitely worth pursuing.

At present, coronavirus vaccines are in the works by doctors around the globe. Some have shown a lot of promise while others have failed miserably right out of the gate. That tends to happen during vaccine development, but the failure rate may be even higher than normal due to the fast-tracked nature of many current vaccine programs.

The best guess from experts is that a vaccine will be available in early 2021. There’s hope that a vaccine may be available by the end of the year, but the odds of that happening are incredibly slim right now. In the meantime, it makes sense to maintain our social distancing and other best practices that have helped flatten the curve.