Pain Killers Blunt The Immune Response November 12, 2009 12:47 AM
Common Pain Relievers May Reduce Bodys Ability to Make Antibodies, Dilute Flu Shot Effectiveness
November 3, 2009
decreasing antibody synthesis, NSAIDs also have the ability to weaken
the immune system, which can have serious consequences for children,
the elderly and immune-compromised patients.
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Taking a common pain killer such as Advil, Tylenol, Aleve, Motrin,
aspirin, etc. before or after receiving a flu shot will likely both
reduce the vaccines effectiveness and have a negative effect on your
immune system, say researchers at University of Rochester Medical
What weve been saying all along, and continue to stress, is that its
probably not a good idea to take common, over-the-counter pain
relievers for minor discomfort associated with vaccination, says Richard P. Phipps, PhD,
a professor of Environmental Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology
& Pediatrics at University of Rochester (NY) Medical Center. We
have studied this question using virus particles, live virus, and
different kinds of pain relievers, in human blood samples and in mice -
and all of our research shows that pain relievers interfere with the
effect of the vaccine.
Dr. Phipps, who has been studying this issue for years, recently presented his latest findings to an international conference on inflammatory diseases.
His research has tested whether production of antibodies using a cell
culture system was blunted by over-the-counter pain relievers. He found
that a variety of pain relievers even though Tylenol and Advil have
different ingredients - seemed to dilute the production of necessary
antibodies to protect against illness.
Similar findings were reported in the Oct 17 issue of The Lancet
by researchers in the Czech Republic. They found that giving
acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, to infants weakens the
immune response to vaccines.
Many of the pain relievers in question are classified as NSAIDs or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs,
which act in part by blocking the cyclooxygenase-2 (cox-2) enzyme.
Blocking the cox-2 enzyme is not a good idea in the context of
vaccination, however, because the cox-2 enzyme is necessary for the
optimal production of B-lymphocytes.
Therefore, when a person takes a medication to reduce pain and
fever, he or she might also inadvertently reduce the ability of B cells
to make antibodies.
Phipps and colleagues have also demonstrated that timing of the
administration of pain relievers is important, according to a study
published Apr 5, 2009 in Cellular Immunology (Ibuprofen and other widely used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs inhibit antibody production in human cells).
They exposed human cells and mice to ibuprofen, Tylenol, aspirin and
naproxen (Aleve) in amounts comparable to doses commonly used by
millions of Americans every day to prevent or treat pain and fever, or
arthritis, or to prevent heart attack and stroke.
Treatment during the earliest stages of inflammation or when the
first signs of pain, swelling, redness or fever would occur had the
most detrimental effects on the immune system, the study noted.
The connection between NSAIDs and antibody production is still being
actively pursued. Phipps said researchers believe ibuprofen, in
particular, affects lymphocytes ability to produce antibodies.
Meanwhile, until a full clinical trial provides a clearer picture,
Phipps urges regular users of NSAIDs to be aware of the risks.
NSAIDs are one of the most commonly used drugs; they are recommended
for all age categories, are prescribed for relieving transient pain or
in cases of serious inflammatory diseases, Phipps said. By decreasing
antibody synthesis, NSAIDs also have the ability to weaken the immune
system which can have serious consequences for children, the elderly
and the immune-compromised patients.
The U.S. Public Health Service has funded Phipps studies.
Source: University of Rochester Medical Center news release, Nov 3, 2009 (modified)