Coronavirus: Antidepressant fluvoxamine may reduce COVID-19 hospitalization risk, study finds

A new study has found that the antidepressant fluvoxamine may reduce the risk of hospitalization in adult COVID-19 patients with underlying health conditions, The Associated Press is reporting.

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The study, published Wednesday in The Lancet Global Health, examined about 1,500 Brazilian adults who were diagnosed with COVID-19 and also had “a known risk factor for progression to severe disease,” such as heart disease or diabetes. About 49.5% of participants took the inexpensive antidepressant for 10 days, while the remaining 50.5% took a placebo. After tracking the infected patients for 28 days, researchers found that 11% of the participants who received fluvoxamine were hospitalized or spent more than six hours in a “COVID-19 emergency setting,” compared with 16% in the placebo group.

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Fluvoxamine, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) primarily used in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder or depression, is already widely available in many lower-income countries and would cost just $4 for 10 days’ worth of treatment, according to the AP. In contrast, monoclonal antibody treatments can cost thousands of dollars, while Merck’s antiviral pill, which has not yet been approved, costs about $700, the news agency reported.

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The authors of the study, which was funded by FastGrants and the Rainwater Charitable Foundation, have shared their findings with the U.S. National Institutes of Health and hope the World Health Organization will recommend the use of the drug for COVID-19 treatment, the AP reported.

“If WHO recommends this, you will see it widely taken up,” co-author Dr. Edward Mills of Ontario’s McMaster University told the news agency. “We hope it will lead to a lot of lives saved.”

The authors noted that the study’s participants were “primarily unvaccinated,” adding that further research is needed to determine how the drug would affect vaccinated COVID-19 patients.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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