McMaster study points to effective treatment for COVID-19 using common antidepressant

McMaster University researchers say recent trials in the study of an inexpensive antidepressant are showing signs of some effectiveness as a treatment for COVID-19.

The evaluation, with university scientists and researchers from CardResearch Cardiologia Assistencial e de Pesquisa LTDA in Brazil, say the use of Fluvoxamine has the potential to cut hospital admissions by 30 per cent when used on those infected with the coronavirus.

Professor Ed Mills with the faculty of health sciences says the team treated 738 randomly selected Brazilian COVID-19 patients with fluvoxamine and another 733 with a placebo for 28 days between Jan. 20 and Aug. 6 of this year.

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Results found about a 30 per cent reduction in COVID-related events and symptoms among those receiving Fluvoxamine compared to those who didn’t.

“Fluvoxamine is the only treatment that, if administered early, can prevent COVID-19 from becoming a life-threatening illness,” Mills said after the release of data from the trial.

“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.”

The cost of the treatment typically ranges between $4 per 10-day course which Mills suggest could be a “game-changer” for poorer countries with low vaccination rates and lack access to advanced COVID therapies.

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The Fluvoxamine trial was part of a larger campaign that started in May 2020, aiming to test potential COVID-19 treatments in a community setting.

Other drugs, including hydroxychloroquine, metformin, kaletra and ivermectin, were in the study but only Fluvoxamine had positive effects on COVID-19, according to Mills.

Fluvoxamine has been around since the 1990s and typically has been used in extreme cases of major depressive disorder and obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD). The oral treatment is known to reduce inflammation of the brain.

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McMaster researchers say the treatment was identified early in the pandemic for its potential to reduce cytokine storms — severe immune responses to COVID-19 that can cause potentially lethal organ damage.

Previously, there have been two other private public observational studies using Fluvoxamine as a COVID treatment published in JAMA and in an open forum infectious diseases study.

Both also showed positive results.

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