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The Making of Medicine

Trial Tests OCD Med to Fight COVID-19

A new clinical trial is testing an antidepressant used to manage obsessive-compulsive disorder to see if it can prevent deadly cytokine storms in patients with COVID-19.

Our Alban Gaultier, PhD, and Dorian A Rosen, PhD, found last year that the drug, fluvoxamine, can reduce the production of cytokines, which flood the body when the immune system spirals out of control. These cytokine storms can lead to multi-organ failure and death. Essentially, the body is ravaged by its own immune system.

Now the University of Washington in St. Louis is seeing if fluvoxamine can prevent that in patients with COVID-19. WU’s Eric J. Lenze, MD, plans to give either the drug or a placebo to 152 COVID patients quarantined at home in Illinois and Missouri.

“Our hope is that by targeting patients who are well enough to be at home, we can give them fluvoxamine and prevent them from getting sicker and needing to go to the hospital,” explained co-investigator Caline Mattar, MD.

That would be wonderful, wouldn’t it?

“I am excited to see the results from this clinical trial,” said Gaultier, of our Department of Neuroscience and Carter Immunology Center. “If proven effective in decreasing the symptoms of COVID-19, this treatment would be a safe and affordable option for fighting the pandemic. Further, this approach could also be applied to other inflammatory conditions driven by cytokine storms, such as sepsis.”


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