Antidepressant fluvoxamine could treat COVID-19

Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine are now conducting a clinical trial of antidepressant drug fluvoxamine, as a potential treatment for the ‘cytokine storm’ associated with COVID-19.

If found effective, this selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) could be rapidly made available to patients as it is already globally marketed and has a known safety record, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

“Having a treatment for cytokine storm that is already so easily available will help reduce mortality and prevent progression from mild-to-severe COVID-19, as well as increase fluvoxamine’s market share,” said Johanna Swanson, Product Manager at GlobalData.

“The drug will be competing with tocilizumab, baricitinib and sarilumab which have been approved for rheumatoid arthritis with global sales of 2,208 million, 203 million and 109 million, respectively.”

Fluvoxamine is being investigated for COVID-19 treatment based on results from researchers at the University of Virginia (UVA) School of Medicine, who found that the drug could prevent sepsis and reduced the generation of cytokines in mice.

Swanson added: “While it remains to be seen if fluvoxamine will have the same effect in humans as it does in mice for preventing sepsis, this would also indicate that the drug could be repurposed for treating other cytokine storm diseases in addition to COVID-19.”

The placebo-controlled clinical trial for fluvoxamine will include 152 COVID-19 patients who will be self-isolating in their homes. Participants will be monitored remotely and will be self-reporting vital signs and interacting with the study team via phone calls or online. The participants will be supplied with thermometers, fingertip oxygen sensors, and automatic blood pressure monitors.

“The remote study design for fluvoxamine shows how clinical trials are adapting to the new era of COVID-19 lockdowns. Changes in technology and communication have allowed studies like this to proceed,” said Swanson.

“Even if this clinical trial does not result in demonstrating efficacy for the treatment versus the control group, the close supervision and monitoring of patients alone could improve their outcomes.”

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