In a research looking for current medications that may be repurposed to treat coronavirus, an inexpensive antidepressant decreased the requirement for hospitalization among high-risk patients with COVID-19.
The medication, which is used to treat depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, was put to the test since it was known to lower inflammation and had shown promise in smaller trials.
They’ve shared their findings with the National Institutes of Health in the United States, which produces treatment guidelines, and they’re hoping for a recommendation from the World Health Organization.
“If WHO endorses this, you will see it extensively used,” research co-author Dr. Edward Mills of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, said, adding that the medicine is readily available in many impoverished countries. “We’re hoping it will save a lot of lives.”
For a course of COVID-19 therapy, the medication, fluvoxamine, would cost $4. Antibody IV therapies cost over $2,000, while Merck’s investigational COVID-19 antiviral tablet costs around $700 per course. Various medicines will eventually be used in tandem to combat the coronavirus, according to some scientists.
The antidepressant was tested in roughly 1,500 Brazilians who had just been infected with the coronavirus and were at risk of severe disease due to other health issues such as diabetes. The antidepressant was administered to half of the participants at home for ten days, while the other half received sham tablets. They were followed for four weeks to observe who went to the hospital or stayed in an emergency department for a lengthy period of time when hospitals were overcrowded.
11 percent of people who took the drug required hospitalization or a lengthy stay in the emergency room, compared to 16 percent of those who received sham tablets.
The findings, which were published in the journal Lancet Global Health on Wednesday, were so robust that independent specialists overseeing the trial urged that it be stopped early because the findings were so evident.
There are still questions regarding the appropriate dose, whether lower-risk people may benefit, and whether the tablet should be used in conjunction with other therapies.
The broader study examined eight current medications to determine if they could combat the pandemic virus. The group is still evaluating a hepatitis medicine, but none of the others have worked out, including metformin, hydroxychloroquine, and ivermectin.
Dr. Paul Sax of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in the study, said the inexpensive generic and Merck’s COVID-19 tablet act in different ways and “may be complimentary.” Merck petitioned authorities in the United States and Europe to approve its antiviral medication earlier this month.