Antidepressants may lower COVID-19 death risk, study suggests

People taking certain antidepressants, particularly fluoxetine, may have a lower death risk from COVID-19, according to research published Nov. 15 in JAMA Network Open.

Researchers from the University of California San Francisco and Stanford (Calif.) University analyzed the EHRs of 83,584 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 from January to September 2020. Of those, 3,401 of the adult participants were prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors — a class of antidepressants. Participants were followed for as long as eight months. 

Compared to COVID-19 patients who weren't taking SSRIs, those taking fluoxetine, which goes by the name brand Prozac, were 28 percent less likely to die, findings showed. Participants taking either fluoextine or fluvoxamine, sold under the name Luvox, were 26 percent less likely to die. 

For patients taking any kind of SSRI, the mortality risk was reduced by 8 percent. 

"These findings suggest that SSRIs, if proven effective, could be a therapeutic option to reduce mortality among patients with COVID-19," researchers said, adding that large clinical trials are needed to validate the findings. 

"The results are encouraging," said Tomiko Oskotsky, MD, study author and research scientist at UCSF. "It's important to find as many options as possible for treating any condition. A particular drug or treatment may not work or be well tolerated by everyone. Data from electronic medical records allow us to quickly look into existing drugs that could be repurposed for treating COVID-19 or other conditions."


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