A cheap and inexpensive drug can help prevent high-risk persons who have contracted Covid-19 from developing serious symptoms and ending up in hospital.
This was one of the findings of the Together clinical trial, a comprehensive study on the efficacy of using Fluvoxamine, often sold under the brand name Luvox, for treating Covid-19.
The oral capsule is currently prescribed as an antidepressant in South Africa, while it’s commonly used in the US to treat obsessive-compulsive behaviour.
Led by Professor Edward Mills of the McMaster University in Canada and Professor Gilmar Reis from the University of Minas Gerais in Brazil, the study was carried out over more than six months between June 2020 and January 2021.
It included 3,238 Brazilian adults who tested positive for Covid-19 and had a known risk factor for progression to severe disease.
739 of the patients were given fluvoxamine, 733 received a placebo, and the remaining 1,766 patients received other treatments. The median age of the participants was 50 years, while the majority were women.
The study concluded that administering two doses of fluvoxamine (2 x 100mg) each day over a 10-day period among high-risk patients with early diagnosed Covid-19 reduced the need for extended emergency room observation over 6 hours or hospitalisation by around 30%.
“Given fluvoxamine’s safety, tolerability, ease of use, low cost, and widespread availability, these findings may have an influence on national and international guidelines on the clinical management of Covid-19,” the researchers said.
According to Drugs.com, Luvox sells for around $13.39 (R196.45) per capsule in the US, making it a relatively cheap treatment.
The study has not yet been peer-reviewed, but transmissible diseases expert at Wits university, professor Francois Venter, told Netwerk24 the researchers are reputed scientists.
Mills is known for his research on Ebola.
Venter labelled the finding as one of the most important since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This is the type of medicine we are looking for,” Venter said. “It’s utterly frustrating that we don’t yet have anything to treat Covid-19 in the early stages to help keep patients out of the hospital.”
Researchers around the world have been scrambling to identify medicines that could help combat Covid-19 alongside vaccines.
The cheap steroid dexamethasone was found to be effective at treating the disease in Covid-19 patients that required oxygen or ventilators to assist with breathing.
However, it should not be used in treatment at early stages, as it could disrupt the body’s immune response.
Many South Africans have resorted to using Ivermectin to treat Covid-19, but the evidence on the efficacy of this anti-parasitic drug remains disputed and clinical trials are still ongoing.
The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority has approved Ivermectin in the treatment of Covid-19 under strict guidelines.
It has not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating Covid-19.
The FDA issued a warning last week that people should avoid Ivermectin intended for use on animals, following reports that several people had been hospitalised after consuming the drug.