WHO Experts Advise Against a Generic Antidepressant to Treat COVID-19

A generic antidepressant and a gout medicine that garnered some popularity as COVID-19 treatments shouldn’t be used for mild infection because there’s no evidence they help, according to a panel of experts advising the World Health Organization.

The drugs, fluvoxamine and colchicine, could potentially cause harm, the group of experts said in the BMJ medical journal Thursday. The panel didn’t give advice for severe illness, saying there was a lack of data.

The two medicines “are commonly used, inexpensive drugs that have received considerable interest as potential COVID-19 treatments during the pandemic,” the WHO said.

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Fluvoxamine is used for depression and obsessive-compulsive disorders and has been prescribed for almost 30 years. The medicine was found to slightly reduce the risk of hospitalization in COVID in a study published in the Lancet Global Health journal last October.

The WHO’s decision reflects uncertainty about how the two drugs would work against COVID-19 in the body, and evidence of little or no effect on survival and other measures such as risk of hospital admission and need for mechanical ventilation, according to the agency.

The experts said they considered data from three randomized controlled trials involving over 2,000 patients for fluvoxamine and seven such tests with 16,484 patients for colchicine.

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Contributor: Marthe Fourcade / AP