A new study out of Brazil shows that a cheap and readily available antidepressant can help keep COVID patients at high risk of severe illness out of the hospital. Researchers said that people given fluvoxamine, which is sold under the brand name Luvox, were 1/3 less likely to develop a severe case of COVID-19 or end up hospitalized as a result.
The drug, which is used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression, reduces inflammation and showed promise in other smaller studies.
"Fluvoxamine may reduce the production of inflammatory molecules called cytokines, that can be triggered by SARS-CoV-2 infection," Dr. Angela Reiersen, an associate professor of psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis, said in a statement.
Researchers enrolled 1,500 people in the study and gave half them two doses of fluvoxamine every day while the other half received a placebo. Of the group that received the drug, 11% required hospitalization, while 16% of those given the placebo ended up in the hospital.
Not only did the drug show promise in preventing severe infections, it is also cheap, costing just $4 for a course of treatment. In comparison, an antibody treatment costs around $2,000, while an experimental antiviral drug being developed by Merck costs $700.
"Given fluvoxamine's safety, tolerability, ease of use, low cost, and widespread availability, these findings might influence national and international guidelines on the clinical management of COVID-19," the researchers said.