Doctors test popular antidepressant to see if it fights Covid-19

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Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are recruiting 1,100 people at the onset of Covid-19 to test the drug fluvoxamine, also known as Luvox.

While an antidepressant may seem unlikely to fight Covid-19, a small study in November indicated that it may have some success, and modern antidepressants, called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, have been known for years. , have anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation plays a key role in Covid-19, leading to complications such as blood clots and swollen ‘Covid toes’.

In order to get results in weeks instead of months – a significant time difference as thousands of people die from Covid-19 every day – researchers are conducting the study in an unorthodox way. They’re shipping the drug to the homes of patients across the country, and patients will monitor their condition and report to study staff, instead of asking patients to visit researchers.
Lenze said it has been going well so far – with a little hiccup that was easily overcome.

“I have a funny story about a participant from New Hampshire. We shipped the study medication to him, and he called to say it was left in snow a quarter of a mile from his house, ”said Dr. Eric Lenze, principal investigator of the study. “He asked if it was still okay to take it, and we said yes, that’s fine. I’m a clinical trial veteran, and this was new to me. ”

Smaller study shows promise for fluvoxamine

The study began in December and has so far recruited a few dozen participants. Researchers say they could have results by February.

In the study published in November in the Journal of the American Medical Association, among 80 patients taking fluvoxamine, none developed low levels of oxygen. Of 72 patients who took a placebo – a pill that does nothing – six developed low levels of oxygen.

One of the patients who was taking fluvoxamine was hospitalized for dehydration. Four of the patients who took a placebo were hospitalized with symptoms related to Covid-19, and one ended up in the ventilated intensive care unit. The researchers did not look to see if the differences in hospitalization between the two groups were statistically significant.

“Due to the limitations of the study, these results should be interpreted as a generation of hypotheses rather than a demonstration of effectiveness,” the authors wrote in the November study.

Lenze and his colleagues are currently conducting a larger study because the previous study was too small to draw definitive conclusions.

An unorthodox study

Researchers at the University of Washington are looking for participants who tested positive for Covid-19 and exhibited symptoms for a week or less.

Several aspects of the study are unorthodox.

The researchers will not physically check the patients. Instead, with the study drugs, the researchers send participants a thermometer, blood pressure cuff, and pulse oximeter, a device placed on the fingertip to measure oxygen levels in the blood. Patients record their measurements on the study website, and research staff call patients daily at the start of the trial.

This new way of doing clinical trials has already proven effective.

Researchers at the University of Washington modeled their study on a study done this spring by Dr. David Boulware of the University of Minnesota, who shipped hydroxychloroquine and placebo pills to participants across the United States. Within a matter of weeks, the study found that hydroxychloroquine, a drug advocated by President Trump, did not work against Covid-19.

“The story of how quickly they did it is extraordinary,” Lenze said. “We borrowed their techniques for our trial and they work well. ”

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