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Drug to treat OCD could reduce hospitalisation risk in Covid patients, study in Lancet says

The study says antidepressant fluvoxamine could reduce the production of inflammatory molecules called cytokines that can be triggered by SARS-CoV-2 infection.

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New Delhi: Fluvoxamine, an antidepressant used for the treatment of major depressive disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), can reduce the need for hospitalisation among high-risk Covid-19 patients, according to the results of a new clinical trial published in The Lancet Global Health publication.

The study was part of the TOGETHER trial, which aims to investigate the efficacy of eight repurposed treatments for Covid-19 among high-risk adult patients who are not hospitalised. 

The fluvoxamine part of the trial began in January 2021. Researchers recruited adults in Brazil who were symptomatic, had tested positive for Covid, were unvaccinated, and had at least one criteria for high risk. 

For the study, 741 participants were given 100 mg of fluvoxamine twice daily for 10 days and 756 participants received a placebo. 

The participants were observed for 28 days. The researchers recorded how many patients spent more than six hours receiving physician treatment at a specialised Covid-19 emergency setting, or hospitalisation.

Of the 741 participants who received fluvoxamine, 79 required an extended stay for more than six hours in an emergency setting or hospitalisation, compared to 119 out of the 756 participants who received the placebo. 

The results show that using fluvoxamine to treat high-risk outpatients with early-diagnosed Covid reduced the need for prolonged observation in an emergency setting or hospitalisation, compared to a control group who received a placebo.

“Recent vaccination developments and campaigns have proved to be effective and important in reducing the number of new symptomatic cases, hospitalisations, and deaths due to COVID-19. However, COVID-19 still poses a risk to individuals in countries with low resources and limited access to vaccinations,”  said Edward Mills of McMaster University in Canada, co-principal investigator on the trial. 

“Identifying inexpensive, widely available, and effective therapies against COVID-19 is therefore of great importance, and repurposing existing medications that are widely available and have well-understood safety profiles is of particular interest,” Mills said. 

Anti-inflammatory properties

Fluvoxamine is currently used to treat mental health conditions such as depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. It was chosen for study as a potential treatment for Covid due to its anti-inflammatory properties. 

“Fluvoxamine may reduce the production of inflammatory molecules called cytokines that can be triggered by SARS-CoV-2 infection,” Angela Reiersen, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis and co-author of the study said in a statement. 

“Our results are consistent with earlier, smaller trials. Given fluvoxamine’s safety, tolerability, ease of use, low cost, and widespread availability, these findings may have an important influence on national and international guidelines on clinical management of COVID-19,” Gilmar Reis, co-principal investigator, based in Belo Horizonte, Brazil said in the statement.

(Edited by Paramita Ghosh)

Also read: India finds at least 17 samples of Covid variant AY.4.2, which caused thousands of cases in UK




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