Popular antidepressant shows promise as COVID-19 treatment

Ellen Galles
Updated: November 30, 2020 06:38 PM
Created: November 30, 2020 04:52 PM

It's called fluvoxamine. It's a drug that's cheap, safe and readily available on the market. For decades it's been a go-to antidepressant.

But now researchers like Dr. David Boulware at the University of Minnesota Medical School are studying the effects of fluvoxamine on COVID-19 patients.  Preliminary research shows the drug could prevent them from developing serious symptoms.

"That's why this is potentially very exciting. You could use a common, generic medicine that's given to millions of people," Boulware said.

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Early-stage research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association this month tracked 152 people after being diagnosed with COVID-19. The patients who took fluvoxamine for two weeks did not develop serious breathing problems. Of the patients who took the placebo, eight percent developed shortness of breath and low oxygen levels.

Boulware says the findings are preliminary but also promising even as we get closer to a vaccine.

"COVID is going to be around for a long time, so having a treatment like this that can decrease the severity of the illness could be huge," he said.

It's hoped that a larger, 800-person trial that's set to begin in a few weeks will give researchers more definitive answers as to how the drug could help. They are recruiting patients from across the country, including here in Minnesota.  

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