A new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that ibuprofen alters the endocrine system and has a negative impact on the testicles of young men.
The study looked at 31 men between the ages of 18 and 35. Fourteen of these men were given 600 milligrams of ibuprofen twice a day. The remaining 17 men received a placebo. Within two weeks, the men in the ibuprofen group were found to have a hormonal imbalance. The testosterone to luteinizing hormone ratios in their blood decreased, which is a sign of testicular dysfunction. Luteinizing hormone is made by the pituitary gland and is important for testicular function and male fertility. This is the hormone that stimulates the testicles to produce testosterone. For the men in the ibuprofen group, luteinizing hormone levels were found to correlate with the amount of ibuprofen circulating in their blood.
When ibuprofen is used for short periods of time, this effect is reversible. We don’t know that impact that long-term ibuprofen use would have though.
In addition, previously published studies suggest that other pain relievers, such as aspirin and acetaminophen, may have similar effects. French and Danish researchers found that all 3 drugs (aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen) affected the testicles of male babies when their mothers took these medications during pregnancy. Of the 3 medications, ibuprofen had the strongest anti-androgenic effects.
Although the current study was small, it gives us important information regarding the negative impact that medications can have on male fertility. Even though ibuprofen is a commonly used over-the-counter medication, we must remember that it is still a pharmaceutical compound.
For patients struggling with male infertility, I would suggest that they review their medication use with their physicians. Many medications, including testosterone, opioids, antidepressants, antipsychotics, immune modulators, and ibuprofen as this study suggests, may impact male hormones and sperm production.