Scientists have found that a drug commonly used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, if taken within seven days of first symptoms of COVID-19, may reduce the risk for respiratory deterioration, an advance that might lead to a new treatment strategy for the novel coronavirus infection.
The study, published in the journal JAMA, noted that none of the 80 patients who took the antidepressant fluvoxamine met the respiratory deterioration criteria — compared to an 8.3 per cent rate in the 72 patients who took a dummy pill (placebo).
“The results of the fluvoxamine trial are encouraging and warrant a further evaluation in a larger study. A treatment that can prevent lung problems in people with mild symptoms of COVID-19 is desperately needed,” said study co-author Carolyn Machamer from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in the US.
According to the scientists, fluvoxamine, which is typically used to treat patients with OCD, has strong anti-inflammatory properties.
They believe this capability could prevent cytokine storms — the body’s massive, sometimes deadly, inflammatory reaction to the coronavirus.
In the study, the 152 trial participants, all of whom were 18 years or older, were diagnosed with mild forms of COVID-19, and randomly assigned to take either fluvoxamine or a placebo.
The scientists said none of the 80 participants who received the drug hit the endpoint of clinical deterioration, as opposed to six of the 72 people in the placebo group whose blood oxygen levels significantly lowered.
Based on the results, the researchers said fluvoxamine has the potential to reduce the risk of hospitalisation in COVID-19 patients.
“We now have evidence that an inexpensive, safe, and readily available pill can reduce deterioration and hospitalisation from COVID-19,” said Steve Kirsch, another co-author of the study.