Anti-depressant may boost recovery in people with severe COVID-19, study finds

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Anti-depressant may boost recovery in people with severe COVID-19, study finds

The antidepressant fluvoxamine may reduce the need for hospital care in people with severe COVID-19, according to a new study. Photo by HmanJp/Wikimedia Commons

Oct. 27 (UPI) — The anti-depressant drug fluvoxamine reduces the risk for prolonged hospital stays in people with severe COVID-19, a clinical trial published Wednesday by the Lancet found.

Of 741 patients given the drug as part of the study, 11% required physician treatment for more than six hours or were hospitalized, the data showed.

In comparison, of the 756 people who received a placebo, 16% needed physician treatment for more than six hours or were hospitalized, the researchers said.

The results suggest that the drug, typically used for depression, also can be used to treat those at high-risk patients with early-diagnosed COVID-19 and reduce their need for prolonged observation in an emergency setting or hospital, they said.

“Identifying inexpensive, widely available, and effective therapies against COVID-19 is of great importance,” study co-author Edward Mills said in a press release.

“Repurposing existing medications that are widely available and have well-understood safety profiles is of particular interest,” said Mills, a professor of health research methods at McMaster University in Canada.

Fluvoxamine, sold in the United States as Luvox, among other brands, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor used to treat mental health conditions such as depression and obsessive-compulsive disorders, according to the National Institutes of Health.

It was chosen for study as a potential treatment for COVID-19 due to its anti-inflammatory properties, but study evidence supporting its use has been limited to date, the agency said, noting that it does not currently recommend its use in people with the virus.

It is one of several commonly used and readily available drugs that have been evaluated for potential use in treating the deadly virus since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

For this study, Mills and his colleagues compared treatment with fluvoxamine to placebo in nearly 1,500 Brazilian unvaccinated adults with confirmed COVID-19, with symptoms.

The research was part of the so-called TOGETHER trial, which investigated eight repurposed treatments for the virus in high-risk adult participants.

As part of the study, 741 participants were given 100 milligrams of fluvoxamine twice daily for 10 days, while 756 received a placebo.

Of those who received fluvoxamine, 79 required an extended stay for more than six hours in an emergency setting or hospital, compared to 119 who received the placebo, the data showed.

There was one death in the fluvoxamine group and 12 in the placebo group, the researchers said.

“Our results are consistent with earlier, smaller trials,” co-author Dr. Gilmar Reis said in a press release.

“Given fluvoxamine’s safety, tolerability, ease of use, low cost and widespread availability, these findings may have an important influence on … clinical management of COVID-19,” said Reis, an associate professor of medicine at Pontifical Catholic University in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

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