The antidepressant fluvoxamine shows promise in preventing people infected with coronavirus from developing serious symptoms and having to be hospitalized, according to a nonrandomized study of California racetrack workers.
“What we observed was that of all the patients who received fluvoxamine, none of them had a severe COVID infection that affected their lungs or their respiratory status,” Caline Mattar, MD, told KNBC in Los Angeles. Dr. Mattar is an infectious disease researcher at Washington University in St. Louis who helped conduct the study that was published in Open Forum Infectious Diseases.
Fluvoxamine, which is sold under the brand name Luvox, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) often prescribed for people diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. It’s been on the market for over a decade.
Two-hundred employees at Golden Gate Fields Racetrack in Berkeley, Calif., tested positive for COVID-19 last November. Track physician David Seftel, MD, offered fluvoxamine to 113 of them, having learned of a previous randomized study of COVID-19 patients that indicated fluvoxamine helped ward off serious illness, Science News said.
The 65 workers who took a 2-week course of the drug didn’t have to be hospitalized, didn’t have serious symptoms, and felt better after 2 weeks, the study said. Six of the 48 workers who turned down fluvoxamine had to be hospitalized, two required intensive care, and one died, the study said.
“Overall, fluvoxamine appears promising as early treatment for COVID-19 to prevent clinical deterioration requiring hospitalization and to prevent possible long haul symptoms persisting beyond 2 weeks,” the study said.
They said their research needed verification from a randomized, controlled trial. Such a study is now being conducted by Washington University and other schools, KNBC said.
The track workers who were infected were predominantly male and Latino, and 30% had chronic medical problems such as diabetes or high blood pressure, Science News said.
A version of this article first appeared on WebMD.com.