Studies show 40-year-old antidepressant may help COVID-19 patients

PITTSBURGH — Studies being done on a 40-year-old antidepressant show it may help prevent deterioration in COVID-19 patients.

“Fluvoxamine, we believe, works in COVID-19 patients by turning down and tapping down the immune response,” said Dr. David Fajgenbaum, director for cytokine storm treatment and laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania.

It’s an antidepressant drug approved by the FDA for obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression. A pharmacist told Channel 11 it costs about $.66 per pill.

“Patients that got the drug didn’t have the damage to their lungs and other organs like patients who didn’t get fluvoxamine but got a placebo because their immune system was in a way tapped down or calmed down by the medication,” said Fajgenbaum.

He said he’s passionate about this project because his own life was saved by a repurposed drug.

“I have a rare condition where my immune system gets out of control similar to the way it does with COVID-19,” Fajgenbaum said. “I’m doing great today.”

He believes the antidepressant could be effective in helping COVID-19 patients.

“If we can repeat what we found in the smaller settings in a few hundred patients in a thousand plus patients, then you could really believe the results. And then yes, I do think that this should become standard for every patient newly diagnosed with COVID-19,” he said.

This is still being tested and studied to treat COVID-19 and there are more to come.