Kidneys & urology

Male fertility: too much ibuprofen can reduce it

March 15, 2018

It is often taken by athletes to prevent pain during a race or it can be used as a simple analgesic. However, few people know that frequently taking ibuprofen is not free from side effects and can reduce male fertility. A research published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences has shown that a therapy based on this analgesic and its anti-inflammatory active ingredient compromises the hormonal function of the pituitary gland, reducing testosterone production. We discuss this topic with Dr. Luciano Negri, specialist in Andrology at the Fertility Center at Humanitas.



Research matches on pregnant women

The Franco-Danish study that would have identified the correlation between the use of ibuprofen and the decrease in testosterone started with an analysis of the effects of conventional over-the-counter drugs on pregnant women. The researchers were intent on evaluating the effects of aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen on the development of testicles in male fetuses. Among these, as it has emerged, the most anti-androgenic effect would derive precisely from ibuprofen.

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From effects on fetuses to analysis on adult subjects

Once it has been demonstrated that the intake of this anti-inflammatory drug in pregnancy is capable of acting on the formation of the testicles of the unborn child, scientists wondered what effects a longer duration therapy based on ibuprofen could have in adult males. The study considered a sample of 31 subjects aged between 18 and 35, divided into two groups. Twice a day, 14 volunteers were given 600 milligrams of ibuprofen (a total of 1200 mg, the maximum daily dose indicated in the anti-inflammatory package leaflet) for two weeks. The other 17 subjects were given a placebo without their knowledge.



Hormone imbalance between side effects

The reduced ability to produce drug-induced male hormones in subjects undergoing therapy has led volunteers to generalized hormonal discomfort. However, the parameters have returned to normal with the discontinuation of therapy. The effects of ibuprofen therefore appear to be totally reversible and associated with the intake of the medicinal product. However, all of the long-term effects still need to be assessed in those who continue to use this active substance.


We must not jump to easy conclusions – Dr. Luciano Negri, specialist in Andrology at the Fertility Center of Humanitas, emphasized – “We must not jump to easy conclusions. It is not necessarily the case that an excessive use of ibuprofen can alter the function of testicular cells responsible for testosterone production (Leydig cells) and sperm maturation, creating a condition of plywood hypogonadism that, in combination with other risk factors (such as obesity, diabetes, and smoking) can lead to a decline in general health over the years”. However – continued Dr. Negri – it is better to avoid their intake during the attempts for offspring because at present we do not know the effect on the DNA of spermatozoa and oocytes. Moreover, it is also better to avoid indiscriminate selfprescription and the assumption of this active ingredient during the first half of pregnancy due to the effects on testes and fetal ovaries “.

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