Fluvoxamine: Cheap, generic antidepressant called Luvox may reduce serious Covid-19 illness, study finds – Community News
Covid-19

Fluvoxamine: Cheap, generic antidepressant called Luvox may reduce serious Covid-19 illness, study finds

A study of about 1,500 patients in Brazil found that those taking the drug, known as fluvoxamine, were less likely to develop serious illness and require hospitalization.

The drug, sold under the brand name Luvox, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) most commonly used to treat obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and depression. But it can affect inflammation, said Dr. Angela Reiersen, an associate professor of psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis, who worked on the study, published in The Lancet Global Health.

“Fluvoxamine may reduce the production of inflammatory molecules called cytokines, which can be caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection,” Reiersen said in a statement. The drug can also reduce platelet counts, which can affect the clotting effects of a coronavirus infection.

Reierson and colleagues gave 741 volunteers with Covid-19 100 mg of fluvoxamine twice daily for 10 days, while 756 volunteers received a placebo.

Of the patients who received fluvoxamine, 79 — or about 11% — required treatment in an ER or hospital room, compared with nearly 16% of those who received placebos. It was a 5% decrease in absolute risk and a 32% decrease in relative risk.

More research is needed to see if the drug can be added to the treatments given to coronavirus patients, but it is cheap. “A 10-day course of fluvoxamine costs about $4, even in a well-equipped environment,” the researchers wrote.

An intubated coronavirus patient is seen next to a lung ventilator at the Ronaldo Gazolla Hospital ICU in Acari, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on April 30, 2020.

It’s not a cure, but if the drug can help keep patients out of the hospital, it would be helpful.

“Given the safety, tolerability, ease of use, low cost and widespread availability of fluvoxamine, these findings may influence national and international guidelines for the clinical management of COVID-19,” they concluded.

A related drug, Prozac or fluoxetine, is also inexpensive and even more widely available, and the researchers said this drug should be studied to see if it might help.

“It is now critical to establish whether a class effect exists and whether these drugs can be used interchangeably for COVID-19,” they wrote.

It was not a perfect study, they noted. It was done in Brazil and the patients had a higher hospitalization rate than Covid-19 patients in other clinical trials.

“There is no standard of care for early treatment of COVID-19 and various advocacy groups are promoting different interventions, including some that have been evaluated in this and our previous studies. In addition, there is little understanding of who is most at risk for disease progression, as some patients with numerous risk factors recover quickly, while some others with less established risk factors may not,” they wrote.