A common drug used to treat depression, fluvoxamine, has shown promise in the treatment of early covid-19, scientists said.
The research was published in the Lancet Global Health journal on Wednesday and based off a large clinical trial that took place across 11 cities in Brazil from January to August 2021. It looked at high-risk symptomatic Brazilian adults who had covid-19 and were at risk of severe illness because of other health problems.
The research found that “treatment with fluvoxamine (100 mg twice daily for 10 days) among high-risk outpatients with early diagnosed COVID-19 reduced the need for hospitalisation.”
Just under 1,500 individuals took part in the trial – about half of whom received the drug and the other half a placebo. The average age of participants was 50 and almost 60% were women, according to the study. The participants were tracked for four weeks and took the pills for 10 days while at home.
In the group that took the drug, 11% needed hospitalization or an extended emergency room stay, compared to 16% of those who took the placebo.
“Fluvoxamine is the only treatment that, if administered early, can prevent COVID-19 from becoming a life-threatening illness,” said study co-author Dr. Edward Mills of McMaster University in Ontario in August. “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.”
The drug has been in use since 1990 and is typically used to treat depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor and works by helping to restore the balance of serotonin in the brain.
It is also relatively cheap, costing about $4 for a 10 day course compared to antibody IV treatments that cost about $2,000. Mills said the drug could be a “game-changer” for poorer nations or those with low vaccination rates.
The TOGETHER Trial group, which was responsible for the research, said they had shared the findings with the World Health Organization and the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
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