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U of U Health studying antidepressant as treatment for COVID-19



PROVO, Utah— University of Utah Health is studying a drug to help treat COVID-19 patients with the hopes of keeping them out of the hospital.

Doctors and researchers are studying an antidepressant known as fluvoxamine. Preliminary studies show it can help reduce COVID-19 symptoms, so they’re putting it to the test in a clinical trial.

Fluvoxamine is FDA-approved and has been around for several decades. University of Utah Health Assistant Professor and Researcher, Adam Spivak hopes this drug provides relief for people suffering from the virus.

“Still a year later and we do not have an effective, easy to take, by mouth, therapy for people who get COVID, to keep them from getting sick and that’s a huge gap in our arsenal,” Spivak said.

Researchers are hopeful it will work because it has anti-inflammatory properties and that’s what they think they is needed to reduce COVID-19 symptoms, because the sickness doesn’t come so much from the virus, but from the body‘s response to it.

“That there’s this huge inflammatory response that gets people sick and lands them in the hospital and that’s what we think fluvoxamine is targeting,” Spivak said.

The first study tested about 150 people. Some were given a placebo but the 80 that were given fluvoxamine never went to a hospital and recovered.

“So that was an extremely exciting result,” Spivak said.

While there is a vaccine now, and most people are focusing on that, Spivak says medicine is still needed to treat symptoms.

“If there is a virus that beats the vaccines we could certainly see an uptick,” Spivak said. “And one of the promises of this drug, if it proves to work, is it’s not strain specific. It’s focusing on the body’s response to the virus.”

This trial is taking place both in the U.S. and in Canada. U. of U. Health is looking for about 1,100 people to join the trial. All of the medicine and trial supplies can be shipped anywhere in the country so that people can do the trial from home.