A very low-cost antidepressant reduced the need for hospitalization among adults with COVID-19 who suffer from other health problems, part of a study on existing drugs that could be used against the coronavirus.
Researchers tested the pill used to treat depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder because it is known to reduce inflammation, and it showed promising results in small-scale studies.
The researchers shared the results with the US National Institutes of Health, which publishes the treatment guidelines, and they hope the World Health Organization will recommend them.
“If the WHO recommends this, they will see that it will be widely adopted,” said study co-author Dr. Edward Mills of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, noting that many poor nations already have wide availability of this drug. “Hopefully this leads to many lives being saved.”
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The complete treatment against covid-19 of the pill, named fluvoxamina, would cost about $ 4. In comparison, intravenous antibody treatments cost about $ 2,000, and the Merck experimental antiviral drug for covid-19 it is worth about $ 700 for the entire treatment. Some experts predict that a combination of several treatments will eventually be used to fight the coronavirus.
The researchers tested the antidepressant on nearly 1,500 Brazilians who were recently infected with coronavirus and who were at risk of severe illness due to other health problems, such as diabetes. About half of them took the antidepressant at home for 10 days, while the rest received placebos. They were followed for four weeks to see who came to the hospital or spent additional time in emergency rooms when hospitals were full.
In the group that took the pill, 11% required hospitalization or extended emergency room care, compared with 16% of the group that received placebos.
The results, published Wednesday in the journal Lancet Global Health, were so robust that independent experts monitoring the study recommended that it be stopped earlier than expected due to the forcefulness of the results.
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There are still questions about which is the best dose, whether lower-risk patients would also benefit, and whether the pill should be combined with other treatments.
The large-scale project analyzed eight existing drugs to see if they could be used against the coronavirus. The project is still testing one drug for hepatitis, but the rest – including metformin, hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin – have not yielded good results.
The low-priced generic and Merck’s covid-19 drug work differently and “could be complementary,” said Dr. Paul Sax of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in the study. . This month, Merck asked regulators in the United States and Europe to authorize its antiviral pill.
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