Some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) painkillers may react with the immune system in a way that reduces the effectiveness of flu shots and other types of vaccines, a University of Rochester study finds.

The researchers said this is an important finding because an estimated 50% to 70% of Americans use NSAIDs for relief from pain and inflammation.


"For years, we have known that elderly people are poor responders to the influenza vaccine and vaccines in general," said principal investigator Richard P. Phipps, a professor of environmental medicine and of microbiology and immunology at the University of Rochester.

According to Phipps, elderly people tend to be heavy users of NSAIDs such as Advil, aspirin, or Celebrex. "This study could help explain the immune system response problem," Phipps said.

The Study

Phipps and his colleagues conducted studies on mice and also analyzed samples of blood from people who took part in early clinical trials of a new vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer.

They found that some NSAIDs hinder a vaccine's ability to prompt the immune system to produce antibodies against a specific illness or infection.

The researchers said their findings suggest that it may be wise for people to avoid taking an NSAID when they receive any vaccine.

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