(WTNH) — Doctors could soon have yet another drug to help keep people with COVID-19 from dying and it’s a class of drugs already proven to be safe in millions of people: antidepressants.
One key to this type of drug is how inexpensive it is and readily available. This rounds out a handful of drugs that keep some COVID patients from severe illness or death.
These are early studies, but doctors are encouraged as discoveries like this continue through this pandemic.
“There’s been evidence building for the past year that certain antidepressants in the SSRI class might actually have a role here,” Yale Physician and Researcher F. Perry Wilson explained.
He is referencing study results released Monday that show that those selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) were shown to make patients less likely to die from COVID, on average eight percent less likely.
Two of the drugs, Prozac and Lubox, proved to make patients about 17 percent less likely to die from COVID.
“It’s not exactly confirmed, yet,” Dr. Wilson said. “It’s not something you should run out to the pharmacist and ask for, but it’s some intriguing evidence that some existing medications might have a role here, which is great.”
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The SSRI class of antidepressants is cheap and widely use and available worldwide to treat mental illness. One expert called this possible repurposing a massive game-changer.
It isn’t perfectly clear exactly how the drugs work for COVID, but there are some compelling theories, said Dr. Wilson. He says one is that SSRIs act as mild antiinflammatories, which may work in the hyperinflammatory state that COVID causes.
“These SSRI antidepressants have a mild blood-thinning effect. One of the ways COVID can really do damage is causing tiny blood clots to form in the body,” Dr. Wilson added.
One Canadian researcher Monday even talked about the possibility of pairing some of these drugs to fight COVID, for instance, pairing the antidepressant with a drug like Merck’s pill, which interferes with viral replication.