Objective To evaluate the evidence surrounding the use of combinations of paracetamol and ibuprofen in the treatment of fever.
Design Systematic narrative review of randomised controlled trials using the UK Economic and Social Research Council guidance on the conduct of narrative synthesis.
Setting Inpatient, outpatient and home care.
Patients Children with fever.
Main outcome measures The effect of combination treatments of paracetamol and ibuprofen on fever and comfort, and identification of side effects.
Results Seven studies were identified, six of which provided useful data for the evaluation of the effect of treatment on temperature. Overall these studies showed limited benefit from the combined treatment until around 4 h, after which there was a statistically but only marginally clinically significant benefit. Two studies contained data directly relating to comfort; these suggest a marginal benefit from the combined treatment, but the clinical significance of this was limited. There was no evidence of greater side effects or toxicities associated with the combined treatment. However, it is important to note that these studies were small, short term, and not conducted in the normal setting in which these treatments are given.
Conclusions There is little evidence of any benefit or harm from the combined treatment compared with the use of each drug alone. In the absence of such benefit, there is little to recommend the unnecessary use of polypharmaceutical methods to treat a symptom that does not require treatment, when effective monotherapies exist.
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Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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