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Cough and cold patients advised not to take Ibuprofen

Ibuprofen has little benefit for treating cold and flu, according to UK researchers who warn it may even prolong symptoms.

They found ibuprofen, or a combination of both ibuprofen and paracetamol, provided no advantage to adult patients with respiratory tract infections, compared with paracetamol alone. Inhaling steam, another common treatment method, also had no clear benefit.

Only in children and those with chest infections was there evidence of reduced symptoms from taking ibuprofen.

Lead study author Paul Little, professor of primary care research at Southampton University, noted that paracetamol, ibuprofen or a combination of the two, were the most common treatments for respiratory tract infections.

But based on the study findings, he said routinely advising ibuprofen or ibuprofen plus paracetamol together, was “not likely to be effective” for colds.

Patients were also more likely to come back within a month with worsening or new symptoms if they were prescribed with ibuprofen or ibuprofen with paracetamol, the study showed.

Around 50-70% of study participants prescribed ibuprofen or ibuprofen with paracetamol returned.

Professor Little admitted it was a “surprising result” and suggested the treatment may contribute to the progression of the illness.

He said: “This may have something to do with the fact the ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory. It is possible that the drug is interfering with an important part of the immune response.

“Although we have to be a bit cautious since these were surprise findings, for the moment I would personally not advise most patients to use ibuprofen for symptom control for coughs colds and sore throat,” he added.

The trial, published online the BMJ, involved 899 patients who presented in primary care with respiratory tract infection symptoms.

They received paracetamol, ibuprofen or a combination of both. Participants were then told to either take it as needed or at regular intervals – four times a day – and some were also told to take steam inhalation.

 

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Readers' comments (3)

  • there is also some recent research which suggests ibuprofen can be more effective in management of sore throats than antibiotics.....very confusing

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  • i find it incredibly innapropriate that when the mouse is hovered over the 'sore throat' underlined words, an advert for calpol is flashed up (found this out by accident), this makes me question the bias and validity of this study and article. this is also one study, and details of how many were in the study, if there would be any bias in selection, participation, was it blind peer reviewed, are there any other studies to support this, so I will wait until more evidence comes out before I change my use of ibuprofen

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  • @Kerry Bailey
    The ad that you see when you hover over keywords is not indicative of a problem with the article. You will see this form of advertising on many sites with articles and it performs through a random selection of popular keywords from the article and then highlighting and estimating a "best-fit" ad for that word. I would suggest getting an ad-blocking software if this is a concern of yours.

    Now if you visit the linked webpage(http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f6041) to the study and read it, you will see that their method of patient selection, participation, randomization, and bias compensation is adequate and has been used successfully in previous studies published in medical journals. This study has made its way into a medical journal for a reason.

    And I can understand if you would like to wait before making a change. It's good to look at any medical study with suspicion, but the study that this article is based on does have more merit than you are giving it credit for.

    -John

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