Researchers tested the pill used for depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder because it was known to reduce inflammation and showed promise in smaller studies.
They shared the results with the US National Institutes of Health, which publish treatment guidelines, and they are hoping for a recommendation from the World Health Organization.
“If the WHO recommends it, you will see it widely adopted,” said study co-author Dr Edward Mills of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., Adding that many poor countries have the drug. readily available. “We hope this will save a lot of lives. “
The pill, called fluvoxamine, is said to cost $ 4 for treatment for COVID-19. By comparison, IV antibody treatments cost around $ 2,000 and Merck’s experimental antiviral pill for COVID-19 costs around $ 700 per course. Some experts predict that various treatments will eventually be used in combination to fight the coronavirus.
Researchers tested the antidepressant in nearly 1,500 Brazilians recently infected with the coronavirus who were at risk of serious illness from other health conditions, such as diabetes. About half took the antidepressant at home for 10 days, the rest received dummy pills. They were followed for four weeks to see who landed in hospital or spent extended time in an emergency room when hospitals were full.
In the group that took the drug, 11% needed hospitalization or an extended stay in the emergency room, compared to 16% of those who took dummy pills.
The results, published Wednesday in the journal Lancet Global Health, were so strong that independent experts monitoring the study recommended stopping it early because the results were clear.
Questions remain about the best dosage, whether low-risk patients might also benefit, and whether the pill should be combined with other treatments.
The larger project looked at eight existing drugs to see if they could work against the pandemic virus. The project is still testing one hepatitis drug, but all the others – including metformin, hydroxychloroquine, and ivermectin – haven’t worked.
Merck’s cheap generic and COVID-19 pill work in different ways and “can be complementary,” said Dr Paul Sax of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, who did not attend the study. Earlier this month, Merck asked U.S. and European regulators to clear its antiviral pill.
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