Are NSAIDS contraindicated in patients with 2019 novel Coronavirus infection (Covid-19)?

Despite recent internet reports of the association of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) with worsening symptoms among patients with Covid-19 (1), firm clinical evidence to support such claims is currently lacking. However, there are some theoretical reasons why it may still be best to avoid NSAIDs in this condition due to their potential adverse impact on the innate and adaptive immune responses as well as their antipyretic properties (2-9).

Blunting of the innate immune response: Certain NSAIDs (eg, ibuprofen, naproxen and celecoxib) inhibit cyclooxygenase enzyme-2 (COX-2) and impair production of several pro-inflammatory cytokines important in fighting infections, such as tumor necrosis factor, interleukin 1 and 6, as well as interferon, an antiviral cytokine (2,6,8). COX-2 has been shown to be important in controlling viral replication in influenza (4). Ibuprofen has been associated with inhibitory effects on a variety of polymorphonuclear functions, including chemotaxis (2).

Impact on adaptive immune response: COX-2 inhibition may be associated with impaired neutralizing antibody production (3,4,8). Potential mechanisms include modulation of cytokine expression, nitric-oxide production, and antigen processing/presentation and T lymphocyte activation (3,8).

Antipyretic effect: NSAIDs are often given for treatment of fever which is an evolutionary host response to infection. A meta-analysis of animal studies evaluating the impact of antipyretics (including aspirin, NSAIDs, and acetaminophen) in influenza found lower survival in animals treated with antipyretics (9). Longer duration of viral shedding has also been associated with the use of aspirin or acetaminophen in rhinovirus infection (9).

Formal epidemiologic and experimental studies are sorely needed to evaluate the safety of NSAIDS in Covid-19.  


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1. Kolata G. Is ibuprofen really risky for Coronavirus patients? NY Times, March 17, 2020.
2. Graham NMH, Burrell CJ, Douglas RM, et al. Adverse effects of aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen on immune function, viral shedding, and clinical status in rhinovirus-infected volunteers. J Infect Dis 1990;162:1277-1282.
3. Culbreth MJ, Biryunkov S, Shoe JL, et al. The use of analgesics during vaccination with a live attenuated Yersinia pestis vaccine alters the resulting immune response in mice. Vaccines 2019;7, 205; doi:10.3390/vaccines7040205
4. Ramos I, Fernandez-Sesma A. Modulating the innate immune response to influenza A virus:potential therapeutic use of anti-inflammatory drugs. Frontiers in Immunology. July 2015. Volume 6. Article 361.
5. Falup-Pecurariu O, Man SC, Neamtu ML, et al. Effects of prophylactic ibuprofen and paracetamol administration on the immunogenicity and reactogenicity of the 10-valent pneumococcal non-typeable Haemophilus influenzae protein D conjugated vaccine(PHID-CV) co-administered with DTPa-combined vaccines in children:An open-label, randomized, controlled, non-inferiority trial. Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics 2017;13: 649-660.
6. Housby JN, Cahill CM, Chu B, et al. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs inhibit the expression of cytokines and induce HSP70 in human monocytes. Cytokine 1999;11:347-58.
7. Agarwal D, Schmader KE, Kossenkov AV, et al. Immune response to influenza vaccination in the elderly is altered by chronic medication use. Immunity & Ageing 2018;15:19.
8. Bancos S, Bernard MP, Topham DJ, et al. Ibuprofen and other widely used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs inhibit antibody production in human cells. Cell Immunol 2009;258:18-28.
9. Eyers S, Weatherall M, Shirtcliffe P, et al. The effect on mortality of antipyretics in the treatment of influenza infection: systematic review and meta-analysis. J R Soc Med 2010;103:403-11.


Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, its affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

Are NSAIDS contraindicated in patients with 2019 novel Coronavirus infection (Covid-19)?

Can non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) suppress cancer metastasis?

A 2017 meta-analysis reported that NSAIDs are associated with lower risk of distant metastasis in patients with breast, prostate, lung, and colorectal cancer.1

The mechanism accounting for this observation is not fully understood. However, since inflammation has been implicated as a driving force for tumor metastasis 2, blunting the inflammatory microenvironment that surrounds tumors may explain NSAIDs’ reported beneficial effect.

NSAIDs may also have a direct effect on cancer cells. In-vitro studies demonstrate that NSAIDs induce the expression of a protein (p75 neurotrophic receptor, p75NTR) associated with suppression of tumor growth and metastasis in prostate cancer; this protein also suppresses growth of bladder cancer cells.3,4

Ibuprofen and indomethacin are among the commonly available NSAIDS shown to exhibit such anti-tumor effect. Interestingly, non-COX-inhibiting NSAIDS (eg, [R] flurbiprofen, an enantiomer of ibuprofen) may also be effective suggesting that inhibition of cell survival may not be COX-mediated.

Although these findings and observations are promising, randomized-controlled trials are clearly needed to better define the role of NSAIDs in the clinical management of cancer.



  1. Zhao X, Xu Z, Li H. NSAIDs use and reduced metastasis in cancer patients: Results from a meta-analysis. Sci Rep 2017; 7:1875.
  2. Qian BZ. Inflammation fires up cancer metastasis. Semin Cancer Biol 2017; 47:170-176.
  3. Khwaja F, Allen J, Lynch J, Andrews P, Djakiew D. Ibuprofen inhibits survival of bladder cancer cells by induced expression of the p75NTR tumor suppressor protein. Cancer Res 2004; 64:6207-6213.
  4. Krygier S, Djakiew D. Neurotrophin receptor p75NTR suppresses growth and nerve growth factor-mediated metastasis of human prostate cancer cells. Int J Cancer 2002; 98:1-7.

Contributed by Camilo Campo, Medical Student, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.

Can non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) suppress cancer metastasis?

My patient just developed a fixed drug reaction from ibuprofen. What is the mechanism of this type of skin reaction?

Although its mechanism is not full elucidated, fixed drug eruption (FDE) is thought to result from the drug-induced cytotoxic activation of CD8+ memory T cells.1 ,2

In this context, the culprit medication behaves as a hapten that adheres to basal keratinocytes which in turn results in the recruitment of T cells and inflammation.  However, as the inflammation resolves, CD8+  effector-memory T cells remain in the area in question,  setting the stage for more rapid immunologic reaction when the drug is reintroduced.

Why a systemic drug triggers a reaction only at specific sites in the body is a fascinating question. Prior herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection (eg, on the lips or genitalia) may explain some cases.1 Interestingly, despite the absence of prior herpetic lesions, most patients with FDE are seropositive for HSV. Previously traumatized body sites (e.g. from burns or insect bites) may also create an immune microenvironment conducive to FDE.

The classic presentation of FDE is reappearance of a rash in the genitals, perianal areas, hands, and feet within 30 min to 8 hours of taking the culprit medication.3 Look specifically for NSAIDs, tetracyclines, sulfonamides, and aspirin on the patient’s drug list. 4


  1. Shiohara, T. Fixed drug eruption: Pathogenesis and diagnostic tests. Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol 2009; 9:316-21.
  2. Butler, DF. Fixed Drug Eruptions. Medscape. Accessed March 26, 2018.
  3. Korkij W, Soltani K. Fixed drug eruptions: A brief review. Arch Dermatol 1984;120:520.
  4. Oakley, A. Fixed Drug Eruption. Accessed March 26, 2018.


Contributed by Amir Hossein Ameri, Medical Student, Harvard Medical School

My patient just developed a fixed drug reaction from ibuprofen. What is the mechanism of this type of skin reaction?