Scientists discovered that long-term use of ibuprofen — the most common painkiller worldwide — reduces testosterone tissue levels in young healthy men, affecting fertility, erections, muscle mass, libido, and mood. The painkiller’s extensive use over a period of more than two weeks is associated with a state of compensated hypogonadism.
What is Ibuprofen?
Ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to treat fever, pain, and inflammation. Even though the US National Institutes of Health warns buyers that this substance is linked to increased risks of heart attacks, strokes, gastric and intestinal ulcers and perforations, Ibuprofen is still available over the counter (OTC) worldwide.
Of course, it wouldn’t be such a tragedy if people would take ibuprofen only on doctor’s orders. But the availability of the drug and the innocent reputation it still has are alarming.
Bernard Jégou, co-author, and director of the Institute of Research in Environmental and Occupational Health in France first studied the interactions of common analgesics such as aspirin, paracetamol (Tylenol), and ibuprofen with pregnancy. He discovered that all three drugs affected the development of the fetus’s testes.
However, the effects of such medication on adult males were still unknown. So, to truly understand the matter, Jégou’s team thought of an extensive study.
In vivo, ex vivo and in vitro
The “In vivo” (inside the living body) experiment involved 31 healthy men between the ages of 18 and 35 who had their blood testosterone levels measured by the researchers. The volunteers were separated into two groups, 14 subjects receiving a 44-day ibuprofen treatment (600 mg, twice a day) and the other 17 participants being offered a placebo. When researchers measured testosterone blood levels, they found them unchanged.
What did change was the testosterone to LH (luteinizing hormone) and FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) ratio. These two hormones are testosterone regulators. When the production of testosterone is low, the pituitary gland synthesizes more LH and FSH, thus signaling the Sertoli and Leydig cells in the testicle to produce more testosterone. This condition is known as compensatory hypogonadism and it usually affects older men and smokers.
Next was the “ex vivo” (outside the living body) component of the study. Doctors studied the effect of ibuprofen on testicular tissue samples received from donors. After exposing Leydig cells to ibuprofen for two days, researchers found that the drug disrupted male hormone synthesis. The “in vitro” (in the test tube) phase findings were consistent with the testicular tissue experiment.
“It is sure that these effects are reversible,” Jégou told CNN. “However, it’s unknown whether the health effects of long-term ibuprofen use are reversible” he added.,
At this moment, Ibuprofen is considered to be the broadest male endocrine-disturbing drug from all chemical classes. Physicians advise taking this medicine with caution, no longer than 10 days in a row.
Findings appeared in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.