Media outlets are starting to spread the word about existing, safe, and inexpensive medications that show promise for treatment of COVID-19. CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta interviewed Dr. David Boulware, a professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota, about fluvoxamine — a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) that is used to treat depression. Fluvoxamine appears to be effective in keeping COVID-19 infections from becoming serious. A real-world study reported that individuals who chose to take fluvoxamine when they contracted the virus did not require hospital treatment and recovered uneventfully, while over 12% of those not taking the medication were hospitalized and one died.
The larger, controlled clinical trials needed for conclusive evidence about fluvoxamine’s effect on COVID-19 are underway, with the University of Minnesota currently enrolling participants. Challenges remain, though. Dr. Boulware noted the difficulty in enrolling people in COVID-19 treatment studies because they need to identify people who have just been infected. Additionally, funding for treatment studies have taken a back seat to vaccine trials. Most studies of repurposed medications have been privately funded (e.g. individuals, foundations) while the National Institutes of Health in the United States has focused on vaccine development.