A clinical trial in Brazil has shown that an antidepressant, when used as soon as possible after the diagnosis of covid-19, reduces the need for hospitalization in high-risk patients.
The trial, published in The Lancet, involved nearly 1500 patients infected with covid-19 and showed that those taking the antidepressant fluvoxamine were less likely to develop serious illness and require hospitalization.
The drug is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) often used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorders and depression.
“Fluvoxamine can reduce the production of inflammatory molecules called cytokines that can be triggered by SRA-CoV-2 infection,” said Angela Reiersen, a researcher involved in the study and mentioned by “CNN”. The drug can also reduce blood platelets, which can affect the clotting effects caused by the coronavirus.
About 741 volunteers with covid-19 received 100 mg fluvoxamine twice daily for ten days, while another 756 volunteers received placebo. Among patients who received fluvoxamine, 79 – about 11% – required hospital treatment compared with almost 16% of those who received placebos. Thus, a 5% decrease in absolute risk and a 32% decrease in relative risk was proven.
However, more research is still needed to understand if the drug can be added to the treatments given to patients with covid-19.
“Given fluvoxamine’s safety, tolerability, ease of use, low cost and widespread availability, these findings may influence national and international guidelines on the clinical management of covid-19,” concluded the investigators.