In what could be considered a chicken-and-egg medical breakthrough, a new study suggests that a commonly prescribed antidepressant could reduce the risk of getting a severe case of COVID-19 by nearly one-third.
According to CNN, a study conducted with approximately 1,500 individuals seemed to show that fluvoxamine, a generic antidepressant that is sold under the brand name Luvox, could help in reducing the severity of COVID in patients who are taking the drug. While the medication is generally used to treat clinical depression and obsessive compulsive disorder, it turns out that it may also help with inflammation—enough that it can reliably reduce the severity of COVID-19.
Dr. Angela Reiersen, an associate professor of psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis and one of the authors of the study, which was published in The Lancet Global Health on Wednesday, says: “Fluvoxamine may reduce the production of inflammatory molecules called cytokines, that can be triggered by SARS-CoV-2 infection.”
As CNN reports:
“Reierson and colleagues gave 741 volunteers with Covid-19 100 mg of fluvoxamine twice a day for 10 days while 756 volunteers got a placebo. Among the patients who got fluvoxamine, 79— or about 11 percent—needed treatment in an ER or hospital room compared to nearly 16 percent of those given placebos. It was a 5 percent decrease in absolute risk and a 32 percent decrease in relative risk.”
While more studies are needed before any firm conclusions can be reached about the effectiveness of Luvox in lessening the effects of COVID, the good news is that it could be a cost-effective measure in reducing the likeliness of an individual with COVID needing to be hospitalized because of the virus. “A 10-day course of fluvoxamine costs approximately $4 even in well-resourced settings,” according to the paper. And while it’s not a cure for COVID-19, the researchers say that the drug’s “safety, tolerability, ease of use, low cost, and widespread availability… might influence national and international guidelines on the clinical management of COVID-19.”