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Wash U study identifies potential early COVID-19 treatment

Scientists worldwide have been searching diligently for possible COVID-19 treatments that could be given in the virus’ early stages, to prevent people from becoming more seriously ill. A research team at Washington University in St. Louis has identified one drug that may help to meet this urgent need: the serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) fluvoxamine.

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Sold under the brand name Luvox among others, fluvoxamine is an antidepressant which has been prescribed since the mid-1990s, and is used primarily to treat those with obsessive-compulsive disorder. In a preliminary study conducted between April and August in the St. Louis area, the Wash U scientists found that fluvoxamine seems to prevent some of the most serious COVID-19 complications and make hospitalization, along with the need for supplemental oxygen, less likely.

During this “contactless” study, 152 patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 who were attempting to recover at home received either fluvoxamine or a placebo along with monitoring supplies.

After 15 days, none of the 80 patients who received fluvoxamine experienced serious worsening of their symptoms. Meanwhile, six of the 72 patients given the placebo (8.3%) became seriously ill, with four needing to be hospitalized.

“Most investigational treatments for COVID-19 have been aimed at the very sickest patients, but it’s also important to find therapies that prevent patients from getting sick enough to require supplemental oxygen or to have to go to the hospital. Our study suggests fluvoxamine may help fill that niche,” said Dr. Eric Lenze of the Wash U School of Medicine.   

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