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Fluvoxamine could reduce hospitalizations in patients at risk of severe forms, according to a study.

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This is new hope for fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. Fluvoxamine, an antidepressant drug already marketed, is able to reduce hospitalizations in patients at risk of severe forms, concludes a study published Wednesday.

“Fluvoxamine, a drug that already exists and whose cost is reduced, reduces the risk of having to resort to advanced care in (a) population at high risk”, conclude the researchers who conducted the clinical trials, the results of which were published in Lancet Global Health, a publication linked to, but separate from, the Lancet reference journal.

Fluvoxamine is used as an antidepressant, and also for obsessive-compulsive disorder. The authors of the study conducted trials, in a dozen Brazilian hospitals, to estimate whether it avoids hospitalizations of patients with Covid-19 who receive it quickly.

Previous studies already gave hope that fluvoxamine is of such interest against Covid-19, but they had been carried out on small samples and their methodology made their conclusions very uncertain.

The Brazilian study, on the other hand, was carried out on more than 700 patients, compared to an equivalent number of patients on placebo, and without the caregivers knowing what treatment they were administering.

These patients presented at least one risk factor: being over 50, smoking, being diabetic, not being vaccinated … The study measured how many patients in each group were finally hospitalized after 28 days, or had to on one occasion spent more than six hours in an emergency department. In the end, fewer patients treated with fluvoxamine than those on placebo – 11% versus 16% – found themselves in one of these two situations.

For Nicolas Hoertel, psychiatrist at Corentin-Celton hospital, interviewed by Le Figaro, “this is an independent study with a very solid methodology which confirms other results which point in the same direction. If there is a treatment today which must make the front page of all the newspapers, it is this one! “.

But not everyone agrees. If the researcher Otavio Berwanger, not associated with the trial, quoted in the journal Lancet Global Health, considers that the study “clearly suggests that fluvoxamine is an effective, safe, inexpensive and rather well tolerated option for treating patients of Covid-19 not hospitalized “, he also sees limits. The study does not indeed allow to conclude on the effect of the drug to reduce deaths and, even in terms of hospitalizations, its conclusions are weakened by the fact of having mixed two criteria.

The authors explain that they also took into account stays in emergency departments because Brazilian hospitals were overloaded by the Covid crisis and could not have taken care of patients who needed it.