Coronavirus: Avoid taking ibuprofen if symptomatic - World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that people who have COVID-19 symptoms avoid taking ibuprofen, after French health officials warned it could worsen the disease.

France's health minister Olivier Veran tweeted on Saturday saying anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and cortisone could be an "aggravating factor" for COVID-19.

"If you have a fever, take paracetamol. If you are already on anti-inflammatory drugs or in doubt, ask your doctor for advice," he wrote.

WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva the United Nations' health experts were "looking into this to give further guidance".

"In the meantime we recommend using paracetamol, and do not use ibuprofen as a self-medication - that's important," he said.

Ibuprofen is also called Brufen, Ibugesic, I-Profen, Nurofen, Advil and Medix. It is found in other medications including Nurofen Plus, Maxigesic, Nuromol, Brufen extra and Nurofen Cold and Flu, according to Health Navigator NZ.

A recent study in The Lancet medical journal hypothesised that an enzyme which is boosted by anti-inflammatory drugs - such as ibuprofen - could worsen COVID-19 infections.

A spokesperson for pharmaceutical company Reckitt Benckiser - which makes Nurofen - said in a statement the company was aware of the concerns around using anti-inflammatory products to alleviate COVID-19 symptoms.

"Consumer safety is our number one priority. Ibuprofen is a well-established medicine that has been used safely for many years as a fever and pain reducer," they said.

The company added it isn't aware of any evidence that ibuprofen "adversely impacts" the outcome for patients who have the disease.