Study finds common antidepressant can reduce COVID-19 hospitalization


An inexpensive antidepressant could be the newest weapon in the fight against COVID-19.

The drug, fluvoxamine, which is commonly prescribed to treat depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, may reduce the need for hospitalization in adults who become severely ill from COVID-19, according to research published Wednesday in the Lancet Global Health journal.

The findings are based on a clinical trial that took place in Brazil from January to August and looked at high-risk, symptomatic adults who had recently contracted COVID-19. When given a 100 milligram dose of fluvoxamine, sold in the U.S. under the brand name Luvox, twice daily for 10 days, trial participants were less likely to require hospitalization or an extended emergency room stay.

Roughly 1,500 adults participated in the trial, with half receiving the drug and half taking a placebo. In the group that took fluvoxamine, 11 percent needed to be hospitalized or treated at an emergency room at length compared to 16 percent in the placebo group.


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Fluvoxamine “could be one of our most powerful weapons against the virus and its effectiveness is one of the most important discoveries we have made since the pandemic began,” study co-author Edward Mills, a researcher at McMaster University in Canada, said in August

The study is part of the TOGETHER Trial, which “aims to identify effective repurposed therapies to prevent the disease progression of Covid-19,” according to its website. The trial’s findings have been shared with the World Health Organization and the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Mills and his co-authors decided to test the drug as a treatment for COVID-19 because it’s known to reduce inflammation, which the virus can cause throughout the body.

Fluvoxamine has been used as an antidepressant since the 1990s and helps balance serotonin levels in the brain. The drug also comes at a low price, costing roughly $4 per 10-day course. 

That could be a “game-changer” for poorer countries with low vaccination rates and those lacking access to more advanced COVID-19 therapies, Mills said.


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