Common Low-Cost Antidepressant Reduces COVID-19 Hospitalization Risk, Study Shows

A low-cost antidepressant that can be used to treat obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), also lowers the risk of COVID-19 high-risk patients needing hospitalization or prolonged medical observation as a result of a large clinical trial published by The Lancet.
Fluvoxamine has been used to treat OCD since nearly 30 years. However, researchers started to investigate it more closely at the outbreak of the pandemic. This was based on its ability reduce inflammation and hopes that it would subdue the body’s intense response to the infection.

Researchers from Brazil, Canada and the US published the results Wednesday. They could provide new guidelines for the use of the drug in the US as well as abroad. The drug is affordable at just $US4 ($AU5) per 10-day course. This could make it a useful treatment in countries that are less fortunate.

The University of Minnesota's infectious disease scientist Dr. David Boulware stated that fluvoxamine "is not a shiny new or expensive drug."

He said that the good thing about it is its safety profile.

The Lancet Global Health published the study that followed almost 1,500 COVID patients from Brazil. They were either given fluvoxamines or placebos. The drug had a one-third reduction in hospitalizations and long-term medical observation rates, according to researchers.

The Times reported that scientists outside the lab have raised questions about the dosage. Some patients had difficulty absorbing the drug and stopped taking it.

Patients who completed their regiment saw a significant drop in hospitalizations. It was even lower for those who did not. It also reduced the risk of COVID-related deaths.

Twelve of the 12 participants who received a placebo were killed, and one took fluvoxamine.

The drug's effectiveness among vaccinated patients is not yet known, since the majority of the study participants were unvaccinated. The Times reported that it has been difficult to run large COVID trials, especially in the US where many high-risk patients have received the vaccine.

Fluvoxamine is now available on the market so doctors can "off-label" prescribe it for COVID-19. However, the outlet says that fluvoxamine has yet to gain the same cult following the success of other less-researched drugs such as hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin.

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