Have You Heard the Buzz About Fluvoxamine? Here’s Why this OCD Medication Matters During the Pandemic

Promising early results from a clinical trial in St. Louis have identified a potential unlikely hero in the COVID-19 pandemic: fluvoxamine. This medication is typically used to treat mental health conditions. However, scientists are hopeful that this mood booster might have antiviral properties as well. While more research is still needed, fluvoxamine shows promise as a drug that can prevent mild COVID-19 cases from turning more serious. 

Below, we’ve answered common questions about fluvoxamine and explained the current research so that you can stay in the know about this new potential COVID-19 treatment. 

What is fluvoxamine? 

Fluvoxamine (brand-name Luvox) is a common antidepressant prescription medication used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and social anxiety disorder. It belongs to a family of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which work by increasing the amount of serotonin in your brain. Serotonin is responsible for maintaining mental balance, stabilizing your moods, and promoting feelings of happiness. 

How can an anti-depressant possibly help fight against a virus?

Typically fluvoxamine is used for mental health conditions that aren’t connected to viruses in any way. However, research has shown that fluvoxamine’s role in increasing serotonin may have some unexpected potential benefits for your immune system

In the process of helping regulate depression, fluvoxamine also activates another protein that stops the production of cytokines. Cytokines are small molecules in your immune system that can sometimes become overactive. When they do, it’s called a “cytokine storm,” and it can cause huge spikes in inflammation and other severe health consequences. Cytokine storms are associated with severe cases of COVID-19. 

What does the research say about fluvoxamine and COVID-19?

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial was performed at Washington University in St. Louis to study the potential of fluvoxamine as a treatment for COVID-19. One hundred and fifty-two adult patients infected with COVID-19 participated in the study. Participants either received 100mg of fluvoxamine or a placebo, 3 times daily for 15 days. The researchers were observing them for clinical deterioration, which means any signs of a worsening COVID-19 infection (such as increased shortness of breath, pneumonia, hospitalization, or oxygen saturation less than 92%). 

Of the 80 patients who received fluvoxamine, none of them showed clinical deterioration. Meanwhile, 8.7% of the patients who did not receive fluvoxamine did experience worsening infections. Therefore, the results of this study suggest that fluvoxamine may be a good treatment option to prevent COVID-19 infections from becoming more serious. It’s important to note that while these preliminary results are promising, more research is needed before we know if fluvoxamine is truly a good preventative treatment option. 

Should I take fluvoxamine to prevent a serious COVID-19 infection? 

As of right now, the answer is no. The study above had a very small sample size, and fluvoxamine is not approved by the FDA for COVID-19 or has it been granted emergency use authorization. These positive preliminary results should be thought of as evidence that more research is needed, but not as evidence that fluvoxamine should immediately be used as a treatment. 

How much does fluvoxamine cost? 

The good news is that if fluvoxamine does turn out to be an effective COVID-19 treatment, it would be a very affordable one. At Honeybee Health, a month’s supply of fluvoxamine only costs $7, and that’s without insurance. 

What are the side effects of fluvoxamine? 

Some common side effects of fluvoxamine include drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, dry mouth, headache, nausea, and changes in sex drive, among others. It’s important to note that the medication can also cause more serious side effects. Specifically, some patients under the age of 24 reported an increase in suicidal thinking when taking fluvoxamine. 

What are some other medicines being studied as COVID-19 treatments? 

Many other drugs are currently under investigation as possible treatments, including ivermectin, tocilizumab, and sarilumab. You can read all about them in our blog posts below if you’d like to learn more! 

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Dr. Jessica Nouhavandi