By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A new medical study links high dosages of the painkiller ibuprofen to male infertility.

The study involved 31 men under the age of 35. Some took 1,200 milligrams daily, which is the maximum limit as directed. Over a six-week period, others took a placebo.

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For those who live with chronic pain, ibuprofen is a staple drug. Doctors also prescribe it.

“Sometimes I do give them anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen,” Dr. Michael Butcher said.

Dr. Butcher is the director of sexual medicine and male infertility at Park Nicollet and Health Partners. He says he was intrigued by a recent study that shows high usage of ibuprofen can negatively affect a man’s fertility.

“It’s interesting, and something to be aware of so I can appropriately counsel my patients and screen appropriately for infertility,” he said.

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Those in the study took 1200 milligrams a day, or about six 200-milligram tablets. After two weeks, hormones that stimulate testosterone production increased.

“But the total testosterone, or the response of the testicles, doesn’t change very much,” Dr. Butcher said. “Which means we have something called compensated hypogonadism.”

Dr. Butcher says that condition can lead to fertility problems, as well as cardiovascular issues. It’s also a condition normally found in elderly men.

Despite the study, Dr. Butcher still feels low doses of ibuprofen are appropriate and often a better choice when a man is concerned about his fertility.

“Those are better in a short term than use of opioids,” he said. “We know that opioids cause a huge effect on fertility. In fact, it can lower testosterone by 70 percent.”

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Once the subjects in the study stopped taking the ibuprofen, their conditions returned to normal. That’s why Dr. Butcher says a study that analyzes high dosage over a longer term — as in several months — could be valuable to see if ibuprofen’s effects on fertility could be permanent.

Jeff Wagner