USA – According to a study published in the Lancet Global Health Journal, fluvoxamine, an inexpensive repurposed drug, may reduce hospital admissions in high-risk COVID-19 patients by up to 30%.
Fluvoxamine is currently used to treat mental illnesses such as depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, it was chosen for research as a potential treatment for COVID-19.
Between January 15 and August 6 of this year, researchers administered fluvoxamine to 739 randomly selected Brazilian COVID-19 patients, while another 733 received a placebo.
Every patient who received fluvoxamine during the trial was followed up on for 28 days to see how they were doing and if they still needed hospital treatment.
The data demonstrated that people who were given Fluvoxamine did not need to be admitted to the hospital. In the case of Fluvoxamine-injected patients, the hospitalization rate was reduced by 30%.
Patients who took all of their prescribed medications saw a 66% reduction in hospitalization rate.
The study discovered a 30% reduction in hospitalizations among those who received fluvoxamine versus those who received a placebo.
According to the researchers, this effect increased to 66% among patients who took all of their medications.
“Fluvoxamine may reduce the production of inflammatory molecules called cytokines, that can be triggered by SARS-CoV-2 infection,” said Angela Reiersen, Associate Professor at Washington University in the US, and co-author of the study.
In a secondary analysis of patients who took at least 80 per cent of medication doses, there was one death in the fluvoxamine group, compared to 12 in the placebo group.
The fluvoxamine trial was part of the larger TOGETHER Trial, which began in May 2020 with the goal of testing potential COVID-19 treatments in a community setting.
“Fluvoxamine is, so far, the only treatment that if administered early, can prevent COVID-19 from becoming a life-threatening illness,” said Edward Mills, co-principal investigator for the TOGETHER Trial and a professor at McMaster University in Canada.
“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, Mills said.
Fluvoxamine, which costs about US$ 4 per 10-day course, could be a game changer for poorer countries with low vaccination rates and limited access to more advanced COVID-19 therapies.
Fluvoxamine has been used for a variety of conditions since the 1990s, and its safety profile is well known, according to the researchers.
The drug was chosen for its anti-inflammatory properties and because of its ability to reduce the cytokine storm in Covid patients.
Cytokine storms are severe immune responses to COVID-19 that can result in organ damage.
However, the NIH points out that fluvoxamine is not currently FDA-approved for the treatment of any infection, including COVID-19. However, this could change.
“It will be important for the NIH and Infectious Diseases Society of America to assess the evidence and provide recommendations for use,” Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security said.