Clinical trial shows antidepressant may prevent severe cases of COVID-19

Updated: Nov. 13, 2020 at 10:32 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A clinical trial shows that a popular antidepressant might help coronavirus patients.

The Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis conducted the trial based on research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

It’s a small sample size, and there’s still lots of work to be done, but UVA Health Dr. Alban Gaultier says: it’s a start.

“Despite the small size of the patient pool, the results are significant,” he said.

Those results are this: 152 adult coronavirus patients were given either a placebo or Fluvoxamine, the antidepressant. Of the 72 who received the placebo, six became seriously ill, including four who were hospitalized and one who was even placed on a ventilator.

The other 80 received Fluvoxamine, and none became seriously ill.

Gaultier called it “a very powerful result.”

There were some limitations to the research, including the fact that about 20 percent of participants stopped answering surveys. Next steps include more testing.

“This is extremely comforting, nevertheless, we need to repeat our study with a larger number of patients, which is going to be called a Phase 3 clinical trial, and I think it’s going to start soon,” he said.

While many people are waiting for potential approval of a vaccine, Gaultier says this development would still be significant.

"We still have a population that could still be susceptible to the virus which is very likely to stay with us for a long, long time now.”

This medication, Gaultier says, would be something that a patient takes very early, not when they are incubated in the hospital. He likened it to “taking an ibuprofen when you have a headache.”

He also says this is just the latest example of why basic science needs to be supported and emphasized.

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