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HEALTH

UPDATE – Coronavirus: French health minister and WHO issue warning over taking anti-inflammatories

France's health minister Olivier Véran warned the public on Saturday that anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and cortisone could be an aggravating factor in coronavirus infections.

UPDATE - Coronavirus: French health minister and WHO issue warning over taking anti-inflammatories
Photo: AFP

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“Taking anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen, cortisone…) could be an aggravating factor for the infection,” Véran tweeted.

“In case of fever take paracetamol. If you are already on a course of anti-inflammatories or if you are in doubt then consult your doctor,” Véran added on Twitter.

His tweet was rapidly retweeted thousands of times with many members of the public asking for further information and a source for his reasoning.

France recently tightened the sale of ibuprofen and paracetamol due to the potential dangers associated with the drugs. The drugs are only sold behind the counter in pharmacies.

Paracetamol must be taken strictly according to the dose, because too high a dosage can be very dangerous for the liver.

Since the announcement the French government has decided to limit the sale of paracetamol in pharmacies due to a rise in demand.

From now on people without symptoms will only be able to buy one box and anyone with sympoms can buy two.

According to Le Figaro newspaper ibuprofen can aggravate existing infections that can lead to “complications”.

The newspaper continues: “Inflammation is a normal response from body to infection and it's an alert signal.

“By masking the response of the immune system taking anti-inflammatories can not only impair the body's response but also hide the signs of how serious it can be. This can delay the diagnosis and therefor treatment.”

According to Dr Annie Pierre from the centre of pharmacovigilance in Tours: “tests in animals showed that taking ibuprofen encourages the growth of certain bacteria.”

Last April France's Medicine's agency ANSM released a report that suggested anti-inflammatories had an aggravating role when it comes to infections.”

The French Minister's advice was then backed up by the WHO on March 17th.

The World Health Organization recommended Tuesday that people suffering from COVID-19-like symptoms should avoid self-medicating with ibuprofen.

The warnings followed a recent study in The Lancet weekly medical journal that hypothesised 
that an enzyme that is boosted when taking anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen could facilitate and worsen COVID-19 infections.

Asked about the study, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva that the UN health agency's experts were “looking into this to give further guidance.”

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

On Friday France's Health Minister Veran said: “The spread of the virus across our territory is accelerating, especially in certain regions.”

He urged the public to limit contact and travel and to wash hands regularly as the death toll ion the country rose to 79.

“Respect social distancing, acknowledge someone rather than greet them physically, keep a metre distance and limit non-essential travel as well visits to the most vulnerable,” he said.

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POLITICS

‘Public opinion is ready’ – These French senators want to legalise marijuana

A group of 31 French senators of the Socialist, Green and Republican parties have come together to write a statement calling for the legalisation of marijuana in France.

'Public opinion is ready' - These French senators want to legalise marijuana

France is known for having some of the strictest laws regarding marijuana consumption in Europe – while simultaneously maintaining one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the EU. 

A group of French senators – coming from the Socialist, Green and centre-right Les Républicains parties – are trying to change those laws, and have come together to call for marijuana to be legalised in France.

The group of 31 co-signed a statement published in French newspaper, Le Monde, on Wednesday, August 10th.

In the statement, the senators promised to launch a ‘consultation process’ to submit a bill to legalise marijuana “in the coming months.”

The proposition was headed by Senator Gilbert-Luc Devinaz, a member of the Socialist Party, and gained support from the party’s leader, Patrick Kanner.

READ MORE: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A report by the Assemblé Nationale, which was published in May 2021, estimated that nearly 18 million French people (more than 25 percent of the population) had already consumed marijuana, and that an additional 1.5 million consume it regularly.

This, coupled with the 2019 finding that nearly one in two French people (45 percent) said they were in favour of legalisation, according to a survey by the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), helped strengthen the senators’ position.

“Public opinion is ready, the legislature must act,” they wrote.

Their senators argue that legalising marijuana in France will allow the authorities to better protect French citizens, saying that legalising would not require “minimising the health impacts of cannabis consumption” but rather would allow regulation similar to “public policies for tobacco, alcohol or gambling.”

For the group of 31 senators, the benefits of legalisation would involve a better control over the “health quality of products consumed,” “curbing trafficking in disadvantaged areas,” developing large-scale prevention plans,” and finally the taxation of cannabis products and redirection of law enforcement resources. Decriminalisation – in their opinion – would not be sufficient as this would simply “deprive authorities the ability to act,” in contrast to legalisation. 

READ MORE: Is France moving towards legalising cannabis for recreational purposes?

“In the long term, new tax revenues would be generated from the cannabis trade and from savings in the justice and police sectors”, which would make it possible to mobilize “significant resources for prevention as well as for rehabilitation and economic development,” wrote the senators.

In France, the conversation around cannabis has evolved in recent years – former Health Minister (and current government spokesman) Olivier Véran said to France Bleu in September 2021 that “countries that have gone towards legalisation have results better than those of France in the last ten years,” adding that he was interested in the potential therapeutic use of cannabis.

Currently, the drug is illegal in France. Previously, it fell under a 1970-law of illicit drug use, making it punishable with up to a year prison and an up to €3,750 fine.

However, in 2020, the government softened the penalties, making it possible for those caught consuming it to opt for an on-the-spot fine of €200.

There is also an ongoing trial involving 3,000 patients to test the impacts of medical marijuana usage, particularly with regard to pain relief. 

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