That ‘medical alert’ about severe Covid-19 cases in Cork due to anti-inflammatories is fake

17 March 2020
What was claimed

There are four young people with no underlying illnesses in an intensive care unit in Cork due to Covid-19, who had all been taking anti-inflammatory drugs.

Our verdict

This is not true. It has been denied by the clinical lead of Ireland’s public health service and the whole message branded ‘misinformation’.

What was claimed

A medical alert says to stop the use of anti-inflammatories for pain or high temperatures.

Our verdict

This message is fake. Current advice from health authorities in the UK and Ireland say to continue taking previously prescribed medication, including anti-inflammatories unless told otherwise by a healthcare professional. The NHS says there is no strong evidence that taking ibuprofen can make Covid-19 worse, but advises people with symptoms to take paracetamol if they can.

A post claiming to be a medical alert sent to stop the use of anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen has been shared several thousand times on Facebook and via WhatsApp.

This post is fake: it is not a real medical alert

The post claims that paracetamol should be used instead of anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen, voltarol and naproxen for pain or high temperature.

It claims that “there seems to be a link between severe cases of Covid-19 affecting young people with no underlying illnesses and taking anti-inflammatories.” Covid-19 is the name of the infection caused by the new coronavirus.

The post also claims that there is evidence of this from Cork, in the Republic of Ireland, where four young people (with no underlying illnesses and who were taking anti-inflammatories) are in an intensive care unit.

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It is an adapted version of a message that began circulating in Ireland a few days ago

The earlier version of the message was said to be from “Dr Tim”, and has already been debunked by news outlets in Ireland. In one version, the message also advised readers to do physiotherapy instead.

The Infectious Disease Society of Ireland tweeted “this is a fake message, please ignore and delete. The clinical lead for Ireland’s public health service (HSE), Dr Colm Henry, has said that there are no patients in Cork University Hospital matching the description in the message. 

The HSE issued a statement on Monday 16 March in response to “false information about anti-inflammatory medication and Covid-19 circulating in media and on social media over the last 24 hours“.

Advice on anti-inflammatories and Covid-19

The HSE and the NHS advise anyone with Covid-19 to continue taking medication, including anti-inflammatories, unless told otherwise by a healthcare professional.

For people with symptoms of Covid-19, the HSE says “paracetamol is usually recommended as the first-line treatment for most people”, but also says that “ibuprofen may help with symptoms such as pain or fever”.

Current guidance from the NHS is different. It says that “until we have more information” about ibuprofen, paracetamol should be used to treat symptoms of the new coronavirus (unless your doctor has told you paracetamol is unsuitable for you).

It adds that, if you are taking ibuprofen or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAID) on the advice of a doctor, you should not stop doing so without checking first. 

We have written more about guidance around ibuprofen and Covid-19 in another fact check.

Update 19 March 2020

We updated this article to include more examples of the post being shared on social media

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