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Toronto: Fluvoxamine – a low-cost and safe drug typically used in forms of depression and related disorders – has the potential to reduce the cytokine storm in COVID-19 patients, finds a study.

The study led by a team of international researchers from Canada, the US, and Brazil examined 1,472 patients who were randomly assigned to receive fluvoxamine or placebo. Patients were older than 50 years of age or had a known risk factor for developing severe COVID-19 disease.

The drug resulted in approximately a 30 percent reduction in the primary outcome. The proportion of patients observed in an emergency room for less than 6 hours or admitted to the hospital due to COVID was lower for the fluvoxamine group compared to placebo.

The study is one of only a few large Phase 3 platform randomized clinical trials to find evidence for an intervention that can be provided to patients before they become severely ill and prevent the likelihood of patients developing the advanced disease.

The findings have the potential to change how COVID-19 is treated around the world as fluvoxamine is cheap, well understood, and widely available in most countries.

“There are currently limited treatment options for the outpatient clinical management of COVID-19. A drug that costs only $4 per treatment of COVID-19 has major implications for care around the globe,” said Professor Edward Mills, from McMaster University in Canada.

Several other studies have also shed light on inexpensive and safe potential treatment against COVID-induced cytokine storm – a potentially fatal amplification of an immune response.

Researchers from the University of Virginia in the US found that a low-cost heartburn drug famotidine improved the odds of survival for COVID-19 patients, especially when it is combined with aspirin. Famotidine also suppressed the cytokine storm in COVID patients.

Further, a team from the University of Technology in Sydney found that seeds of the plant, Nigella sativa, better known as Kalonji, could be utilized in the treatment of COVID-19 infection.

They found an active ingredient of Nigella sativa can also block the ‘cytokine’ storm that affects seriously ill patients who are hospitalized with COVID-19.

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