Antidepressant plays key role in battling COVID-19 at California horseracing track
BERKELEY, Calif., Jan. 15, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- The COVID-19 Early Treatment Fund (CETF) announced today that the use of the generic antidepressant fluvoxamine helped speed the recovery of dozens of COVID-infected workers at Golden Gate Fields, the Berkeley horse racing venue that reopened Friday.
The track physician, Dr. David Seftel, offered fluvoxamine to infected employees after learning about the 100% success rate in avoiding hospitalization in a Phase 2 randomized controlled trial published on November 12, 2020, in the Journal of the American Medical Association. None of the 77 employees at Golden Gate Fields who opted to take fluvoxamine required hospitalization, compared with a 12.5% hospitalization rate for the 48 employees who declined the drug.
"This is one of the most extraordinary therapeutic effects I've witnessed in my 25 years of practicing medicine,'' said Dr. Seftel, who is CEO of Enable Biosciences and a reviewer for the National Institutes of Health. "There is no doubt in my mind that fluvoxamine significantly helped the workers at Golden Gate Fields battle this virus. In every case, respiratory decline reversed within about three days after starting the drug."
The effect was so profound, Dr. Seftel said, that it was evident to other employees. "When we first offered the drug, only 40% of the workers opted to take it. Just two weeks later, all of the employees wanted the drug because they saw the disparity in outcomes between co-workers who took the drug compared to those who didn't."
The detailed results of the study have been submitted for imminent publication in the authoritative medical journal Open Forum Infectious Diseases.
The Golden Gate Fields experience with fluvoxamine confirmed earlier findings from a 152-patient randomized clinical trial at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. In that outpatient trial, Dr. Eric Lenze and colleagues found that fluvoxamine was 100% effective in preventing respiratory deterioration that normally would require hospitalization compared with an 8.3% hospitalization rate in the placebo group.
"These results are game changing for the treatment of COVID,'' said Steve Kirsch, a Silicon Valley high-tech entrepreneur and the founder of CETF. "I am not aware of a single case where fluvoxamine failed to rapidly recover a patient from COVID. It has been used successfully on both outpatients and hospitalized patients and even on intubated patients. More importantly, Dr. Seftel discovered that in his study, none of the people who took the drug had any COVID symptoms after two weeks, but in the no treatment group, 25% of the workers had 5 or more COVID symptoms after two weeks."
CETF is funding a Phase 3 clinical trial with 880 patients. The trial began in December. More information can be found at stopcovidtrial.wustl.edu
Fluvoxamine holds promise for anyone with COVID, said Dr. Seftel. He noted that 75% of track workers were male and 84% were Latino. Of the group that declined fluvoxamine, two required intensive-care stays and one died. Dr. Seftel said that respiratory rates for those taking fluvoxamine improved faster by the seventh day of treatment.
“I have a long-standing interest in taking FDA-approved drugs for one disease and seeing how a particular drug might work for another disease, and the results of these three studies are very encouraging,” said Dr. Vikas P. Sukhatme, Dean of the School of Medicine at Emory University in Atlanta. “If you have COVID, I encourage you to enroll in the trial, participating from the comfort of your home. For more information on how to enroll, go here stopcovidtrail.wustl.edu. If for any reason you cannot enroll, please talk with your doctor about treatment options including fluvoxamine, especially if you have health conditions that put you at high risk of being hospitalized.’’
Enrolling is free, and you can participate from the comfort of your home. For more information on how to enroll, go to stopcovidtrial.wustl.edu
For more information about CETF, please visit treatearly.org.
Dr. Sukhatme's views do not necessarily represent those of Emory University.
SOURCE COVID-19 Early Treatment Fund