RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Repurposing drugs to treat COVID-19 infections has been a strategy of scientists across the world. It allows researchers to get straight to the testing stage with an existing treatment rather than spending time developing the chemistry of a new drug.

The Duke Clinical Research Institute partnered with Vanderbilt University to test whether fluvoxamine—an antidepressant—could also work to treat COVID-19 as part of the ACTIV-6 study. This nationwide double-blind study evaluates the potential benefits for treating mild-to-moderate COVID-19 with repurposed medications. 

Fluvoxamine is known to reduce inflammation, is cheaper to produce than other COVID-19 treatment options like infusion therapies, and is already widely available in pill form.

The Duke study required participants to take 50 mg of fluvoxamine twice daily for 10 days for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 symptoms. 

“There was no evidence of improvement in time to recovery in participants who took this dose of fluvoxamine versus those who took a placebo,” said Adrian Hernandez, M.D., the study’s administrative principal investigator and executive director of the DCRI. 

Researchers found 75 percent of participants were still reporting symptoms at day seven of treatment. Almost 70 percent of study participants were vaccinated.

“This finding may reflect the decreased severity of COVID-19 symptoms in a vaccinated population,” Hernandez said. “In future COVID-19 research, we may want to consider evaluating functional status instead of symptom relief.” 

The results counter a study published from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario where researchers found the drug did reduce the need for hospitalization among high-risk adults. Those study participants, however, took 100 mg doses rather than the 50 mg dose used in the Duke study. Most notable—this study’s participants were largely unvaccinated.

According to Duke, the ACTIV-6 team is also testing how patients react to taking a 100 mg dose of fluvoxamine twice daily for 13 days. 

“Other research suggests that 100 mg of fluvoxamine taken twice daily may be effective in treating COVID-19, but tolerance may be a limitation,” said Susanna Naggie, M.D., the DCRI principal investigator overseeing the study’s clinical coordinating center.

“We set out to test if 50 mg taken twice daily is effective and tolerated. We learned efficacy is not achieved at the lower dose of fluvoxamine and look forward to learning of and sharing results from the open study arm testing the higher dose,” Naggie added.