The hypothesis that antidepressants can reduce the risk of complications from COVID-19 due to a small anti-inflammatory effect appeared in the first year of the pandemic. Two small studies have shown that prescribing fluvoxamine, a serotonin reuptake inhibitor drug, potentially reduces the risk of worsening in outpatients.
In October, The Lancet Global Health published an analysis of data from the TOGETHER study, in which 741 patients received fluvoxamine and 756 received placebo. After 28 days, 79 (10.6%) patients in the fluvoxamine group required hospitalization, and among those who received placebo in the hospital there were 119 (15.7%) patients. Scientists estimated that the relative risk of hospitalization when taking an antidepressant in the early stages of the disease was 32% lower. No patient died in the fluvoxamine group, and 12 deaths were among those receiving placebo.
A new publication by scientists from California and Stanford Universities presents an analysis of medical records of 83.5 thousand Americans who confirmed COVID-19 from January to September 2020. In this cohort, 3.4 thousand patients regularly took various antidepressants, mainly fluvoxamine and fluoxetine (also from the SSRI group).
Patients taking fluoxetine were 28% less likely to die compared to the general population. Fluvoxamine improved survival by 26%. Scientists estimate that taking antidepressants of any group reduced the risk of mortality by an average of 8%.
The authors of the study emphasized that these data were obtained from the analysis of data from a large cohort, which included patients of various age, racial and ethnic groups with various comorbidities, including diabetes, heart disease and others.
“We cannot say with certainty whether drugs cause these effects, but statistical analysis shows a significant association,” said Marina Sirota, co-author of the study.