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Under the microscope: Ibuprofen

Why are we looking at ibuprofen?

There have been rumours over recent months that taking ibuprofen while suffering with COVID-19 can lead to an increased risk of death.

Why are we looking at ibuprofen?
No, it’s not. The World Health Organization and the European Medicines Agency, among others, dismissed the information as untrue, but it carried on gaining traction.

Where did these false claims come from?
In March, in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic in Europe, a tweet from the French Health Minister, Olivier Verán, advised patients with COVID-19 not to take ibuprofen. Even though the statement was not backed by any scientifically valid evidence, it subsequently spread to a number of countries.

Why did people believe it?
A team from the Universitat Oberya de Catalunya have been looking at this question. They traced the story’s trail back to a WhatsApp voice message in Germany and, following the digital footprint on the microblogging network, they also analysed how the story spread from its country of origin to users in the Netherlands, France and, finally, Spain and Italy.

Did people believe it straight away?
Not at first. The voice message was forwarded to different users but, as it was not possible to identify who originally recorded the message, it lost credibility and the general tone of comments was to debunk it or make jokes about it, the researchers state.

Then what happened?
In France, where the message was circulated by the health minister, the misinformation had a big impact and comments refuting the claim were virtually non-existent. Other reliable sources, such as the media, then reproduced the Minister’s tweet without fact-checking, helping to take the information to greater segments of the population.


Picture Credit | iStock

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