An antidepressant drug, fluvoxamine, can reduce the number of patients with COVID-19 who are at risk of developing the disease, according to a clinical trial released on Wednesday.
“Fluvoxamine, a drug that is already available and low cost, reduces the risk of advanced care in high-risk populations,” said the researchers, who published their findings in the journal Lancet Global Health. , a scientific journal linked to the Lancet Reference Review, but a separate edition.
Fluvoxamine is used as an antidepressant and also against obsessive-compulsive disorder. The researchers conducted trials at about a dozen hospitals in Brazil to assess whether the drug could avoid treating patients who became infected with COVID-19 and received it quickly.
Previous studies have already given hope that fluvoxamine is of such interest in the treatment of COVID-19, but they were made in small samples and their methodology made their findings very uncertain.
The study in Brazil involved a group of more than 700 patients, who were compared with an equal number of patients taking placebo without the medical staff knowing what treatment they were receiving.
These patients had at least one risk factor: they were over 50 years old, smoked, were diabetic, had not been vaccinated, etc.
In this study, it was estimated how many patients from each group eventually had to be hospitalized after 28 days or in one case had to stay for more than six hours in an emergency department.
Fewer patients than those receiving fluvoxamine compared with those receiving placebo – 11% vs. 16% – found themselves in one of these two conditions.
“This study clearly suggests that fluvoxamine is an option that is effective, safe, low-cost and rather a well-tolerated treatment for non-hospitalized patients with COVID-19,” said researcher Otavio Beruanger, who was not with the test, in a comment which is also published in the review.
However, he points out the limits of the research. This does not allow a conclusion to be drawn as to the effectiveness of the drug in reducing deaths and, even in terms of hospitalization, its conclusions are weakened by the fact that two criteria were mixed.
The study’s authors explain that they also considered staying in the emergency departments because hospitals in Brazil were overloaded by the COVID-19 crisis and could not care for patients who needed it.