If worrying about the global pandemic has left you clinically depressed, there may now be good news.
A study in the Lancet, a respected British medical journal, is reporting that fluvoxamine, a drug long used to treat depression, significantly reduces hospitalization “among high-risk outpatients with early diagnosed COVID-19.”
Maybe now you can treat two diseases with one drug.
Early results from a randomized controlled trial (RCT) begun in June were so robust that the Brazilian, Canadian, U.S. and Australian doctors involved in the study decided to stop it early so that patients being administered placebos as a control on the experiment could instead be given the drug.
If you’re struggling with a mood disorder, this might give you one more reason to see your doctor. Along these lines, it is worth noting that some of the symptoms of depression – notably fatigue and lack of energy – are similar to those of Covid-19.
“Older men are more likely to present with irritability or grumpiness as a symptom of depression than women. So the stereotype of the grumpy old man could be a sign of a depressed old man.”
If that’s you – and you’ve found yourself obsessing over how old men are the prime target for Covid-19 – fluvoxamine might prove helpful.
Fluvoxamine is a drug developed in Switzerland in 1983 and approved for the use of the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder in the U.S. in 1994.
It is probably best known by the brand name Luvox. The National Alliance on Mental Illness says it is now often ” prescribed “off-label” for major depressive disorder (MDD), social phobia (also known as social anxiety disorder), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorder, and eating disorders including bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder. ‘Off-label’ means that it hasn’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for this condition.”
The drug is generally considered safe but comes with a long list of common side effects NAMI lists as “headache, nausea, diarrhea, dry mouth, dizziness, increased sweating, feeling nervous, restless, fatigued, or having trouble sleeping (insomnia).”
There are some other serious, potentially even deadly, side effects, but they are rare.
Why the drug would prove effective against the Covid-19 causing SARS-CoV-2 virus is unclear. The drugs inflammatory properties could help reduce the cytokine storms that have proven so dangerous in Covid-19 patients, the study said.
Other possibilities include antiplatelet effects that are cardioprotective or “action might be related to the effect of fluvoxamine in increasing plasma levels of melatonin,” the study said.
Melatonin is a naturally produced hormone most closely linked to human sleep cycles, but it is also a strong antioxidant. Its antioxidant properties have in the past been linked to slowing the inevitable physical decay associated with aging and metabolic disorders.
Age and/or metabolic disorders, the most visible of which is obesity, have characterized the majority of those killed by Covid-19.
Sadly, the pandemic has only added to the already high risks of early death for those whose weight spins out of control.
That old, fat problem
“Abdominal obesity is the most frequently observed component of metabolic syndrome,” researchers reported in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology in 2017. “The metabolic syndrome – clustering of abdominal obesity, dyslipidemia, hyperglycemia and hypertension – is a major public health challenge. The average prevalence of metabolic syndrome is 31 percent, and is associated with a two-fold increase in the risk of coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and a one and a half-fold increase in the risk of all-cause mortality.”
A better understanding of how and why fluvoxamine works to inhibit the SARS-CoV-2 virus might provide information that could prove helpful in treating metabolic disorders on a larger level in a world full of people with ever-expanding waist lines.
“In vitro and animal studies are needed to help clarify the most probable mechanism(s),” the researchers wrote.
But they also offered some words of caution about their study – words of caution that should be applied to most studies of Covid-19.
“Major limitations of our trial are related to the challenges of doing a trial in a disease that is not well characterized,” they wrote. “There is no standard of care that exists for early treatment of COVID-19 and various advocacy groups promote different interventions, including some of those evaluated in this and our previous trials.
“Furthermore, there is little understanding of who is at greatest risk of disease progression from this disease as some patients with numerous risk factors do recover quickly whereas some others with less established risk factors might not.”
Still, they said, at the end of the day – given all these qualifiers – the cheap treatment they studied “compares favorably with the treatment effects of more expensive treatments including monoclonal antibodies for outpatient treatment.”
A 10-day course of fluvoxamine costs under $5. Monoclonal antibodies infusions cost over $2,000, although they really cost nothing at the moment in this country because the government is paying for them.
The pandemic has been a goldmine for the biotech company.
“Regeneron Pharmaceuticals’ stock was trading at $464.70 on March 11th, 2020 when COVID-19 (Coronavirus) reached pandemic status according to the World Health Organization. Since then, REGN shares have increased by 39.4 percent and is now trading at $647.73,” according to MarketBeat.