Could a Common Antidepressant Help Fight COVID-19?

Scientists are researching the potential role a common antidepressant called fluvoxamine could play in preventing severe illness and lung damage in COVID-19 patients. The drug is classified as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI, and activates a central nervous system protein that regulates inflammation.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Dr. Eric Lenze, a geriatric psychiatrist and associate professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine, conducted small, clinical trials and found none of the COVID-19 patients treated with fluvoxamine deteriorated, while those patients who were given a placebo did. He published his study results in JAMA.

Further anecdotal studies confirmed the drug’s efficacy, but experts say a large, randomized trial is needed to ensure repurposing a psychiatric drug to treat COVID-19 is safe.

The research for fluvoxamine, sold under the brand name Luvox, was funded by the COVID-19 Early Treatment Fund (CETF), according to BioSpace.

“The results of the fluvoxamine trial are encouraging and warrant a further evaluation in a larger study,” said Dr. Carolyn Machamer, a professor of cell biology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and a member of CETF’s advisory board. “A treatment that can prevent lung problems in people with mild symptoms of COVID-19 is desperately needed.”

Researchers in France have conducted large-scale studies and confirmed SSRI drugs significantly decreased the risk of COVID-19 patients needing a ventilator or dying from COVID-19, according to BioSpace.

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