An inexpensive drug often used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression may reduce patients’ risk of Covid-19 hospitalization, a new study in the Lancet medical journal found Wednesday, providing a potentially cheaper alternative to current therapies like monoclonal antibodies.
The study looked at over 1,000 Brazilian coronavirus patients who were largely unvaccinated and faced a heightened risk due to age or underlying health issues.
Some 11% of patients who took the antidepressant drug fluvoxamine visited a hospital or were held in a Covid-19 emergency treatment center, compared to 16% of patients who didn’t take the drug, meaning fluvoxamine reduced patients’ risk by 32%.
The risk of hospitalization was even lower for patients who took at least 80% of the fluvoxamine doses prescribed to them; just one patient who largely followed the treatment course died, compared to 12 who weren’t offered the drug.
Brazilian researcher Dr. Otavio Berwanger wrote in a Lancet comment that the study “strongly suggests that fluvoxamine constitutes an effective, safe, inexpensive, and relatively well tolerated option” for treating Covid-19 patients. Still, he cautioned there are some unanswered questions: More research is needed on the correct course of treatment and how lower-risk patients and vaccinated people respond to the drug, Berwanger wrote.
$4. That’s how much a 10-day course of fluvoxamine costs, according to the study.
“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 study’s authors wrote.
What We Don’t Know
It’s not clear why fluvoxamine appears to be effective against Covid-19, the study’s authors wrote, but they initially chose to study the drug because its anti-inflammatory properties could help coronavirus patients.
Several thousand new Covid-19 deaths are reported worldwide every day, and large portions of the planet remain unvaccinated against the virus, driving interest in effective treatments for Covid-19 patients. Monoclonal antibody therapies have proven effective in certain patients, but treatment can cost the government upwards of $2,000, and U.S. health officials struggled to keep up with demand when hospitalizations soared over the summer. Also, an experimental antiviral drug made by Merck could cost around $700 per treatment in the United States.
Anti-Covid Drugs Are Coming, But At What Cost? (Forbes)