Ibuprofen increases the hepatotoxicity of ethanol through potentiating oxidative stress

Minjeong Kim, Eugenia Jin Lee, Kyung Min Lim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Over 30 million prescriptions of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are issued every year. Considering that these drugs are available without a prescription as over the counter (OTC) drugs, their use will be astronomical. With the increasing use of NSAIDs, their adverse effects are drawing attention. Especially, stomach bleeding, kidney toxicity, liver toxicity, and neurological toxicity are reported as common. Ibuprofen, one of the extensively used NSAIDs along with aspirin, can also induce liver toxicity, but few studies are addressing this point. Here we examined the liver toxicity of ibuprofen and investigated whether co-exposure to ethanol can manifest synergistic effects. We employed 2D and 3D cultured human hepatoma cells, HepG2 to examine the synergistic hepatotoxicity of ibuprofen and alcohol concerning cell viability, morphology, and histology of 3D spheroids. As a result, ibuprofen and alcohol provoked synergistic hepatotoxicity against hepatocytes, and their toxicity increased prominently in 3D culture upon extended exposure. Oxidative stress appeared to be the mechanisms underlying the synergistic toxicity of ibuprofen and alcohol as evidenced by increased production of ROS and expression of the endogenous antioxidant system. Collectively, this study has demonstrated that ibuprofen and EtOH can induce synergistic hepatotoxicity, providing a line of evidence for caution against the use of ibuprofen in combination with alcohol.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-210
Number of pages6
JournalBiomolecules and Therapeutics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (2018R1D1A1B07042919 and NRF-2020R1I1A1A01067636) and the Korea government (MSIT) (2018R1A5A2025286). Authors are grateful to Eunice Bae Lee for her support in the preparation of manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Korean Society of Applied Pharmacology.


  • 3D spheroid
  • Alcohol
  • HepG2
  • Hepatotoxicity
  • Ibuprofen
  • Oxidative stress


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