OCT 29, 2021 11:00 AM PDT

Common Antidepressant Reduces COVID-19 Hospitalizations by 30%

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

The widely-available antidepressant fluvoxamine reduces COVID-19 hospitalizations by 30%. The corresponding study was published in The Lancet Global Health

Fluvoxamine has a well-known safety profile and has been used as an antidepressant since the 1990’s for various conditions. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, scientists had suspected since the beginning of the pandemic that it may have utility in treating the cytokine storms, an excessive and deadly immune response that presents in severe cases of COVID-19. 

In 2020, a study was published by researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine concerning the drug. In a placebo-controlled trial involving 152 patients with COVID-19, they found that patients taking fluoxetine ‘did not develop serious breathing difficulties or require hospitalization for problems with lung function’.  

The present study echoes and expands on these results. Under placebo-controlled, randomized conditions, the researchers split 1497 patients with COVID-19 into two treatment arms: one receiving 100 mg of fluvoxamine twice daily for 10 days or a placebo. 

The average age of participants was 50 years old, and 58% were female. All were at a high risk of developing severe symptoms of the disease. Both groups were tracked for 28 days following the trial to determine the effect of the drug. 

The researchers found that patients receiving fluvoxamine were hospitalized 30% less than those taking placebos. They also note, however, that of the 741 patients receiving fluoxetine, 84 discontinued treatment due to intolerability, while 64 stopped taking the placebo also due to intolerability. 

“Fluvoxamine is, so far, the only treatment that if administered early, can prevent COVID-19 from becoming a life-threatening illness. It 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,” said Edward Mills, professor of McMaster's Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact and co-principal investigator for the TOGETHER Trial, a group of clinical trials aiming to test potential COVID-19 treatments in community settings.

He added that as fluvoxamine costs around $4 per 10-day course, it may be particularly beneficial for poorer countries with low rates of vaccination, and who lack access to other COVID-19 therapy options. 

 

Sources: The Lancet Global Health, LabRoots, News Medical

 

About the Author
  • Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
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