Antidepressant found to reduce COVID-19 hospitalizations: study

An affordable antidepressant has been found in a clinical trial to reduce the risk of hospitalization in high-risk adults with recently diagnosed COVID-19, according to a study published in The Lancet Global Health.

The drug, known as fluvoxamine, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) commonly used in the treatment of depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other mood disorders. Its low price makes it a desirable treatment option for less wealthy nations, the researchers wrote.

Researchers began looking into the drug during the height of the pandemic because of the antidepressant’s ability to reduce inflammation, according to The New York Times. The researchers thus hypothesized that the drug may allow the body to quell an overwhelming response to a COVID-19 infection. 

Other studies have come out in the past months on fluvoxamine that also showed promising results; however, no study has been as large as the one published Wednesday, according to the Times.

The study consisted of about 1,500 Brazilian adults, half of whom were given the antidepressant and half of whom were given a placebo. The study found that the drug reduced the need for hospitalization or medical observation by about one-third.

A portion of patients struggled to tolerate the SSRI — which commonly has side effects such as nausea, weight gain, sleep disturbances, sexual dysfunction and diarrhea — and stopped taking it, according to the Times. 

However, the benefits were highest among those who continued taking the drug under a doctor’s direction. In that group, hospitalization risk fell by two-thirds, and only one patient died while taking fluvoxamine, compared with 12 who died while on the placebo. 

U.S. News & World Report reported that the results have been shared with the U.S. National Institutes of Health, which publishes treatment guidelines, and that they are hoping for a recommendation from the World Health Organization (WHO). 

“If WHO recommends this, you will see it widely taken up,” said study co-author Edward Mills of McMaster University, according to U.S. News & World Report, which noted its affordability compared with antibody IV treatments that cost about $2,000 and Merck’s antiviral pill against COVID-19 that is set to be about $700.

“We hope it will lead to a lot of lives saved,” McMaster said.

Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *