Researchers and pharmacy wholesalers are studying common drugs such as antidepressants, cough medicines and nutritional supplements to treat early-state COVID-19, according to a Jan. 14 report from The Boston Globe.
The only outpatient COVID-19 treatments being used outside of clinical trials are monoclonal antibodies, which are laboratory-produced copies of the body’s immune response to the disease. Monoclonal antibodies require patients sick with COVID-19 to stay at an infusion center for hours, so they remain in limited supply.
Below are three common drugs being tested as outpatient COVID-19 treatments:
- The antidepressant fluvoxamine is being studied as a potential COVID-19 treatment by Eric Lenze, MD, the director of the Healthy Mind Lab at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, though his trial has only enrolled about 60 of the 1,100 participants it needs. He published research in November in which 80 COVID-positive patients received fluvoxamine and 72 received a placebo. The results showed that none of the participants who received the drug experienced worsening symptoms during a 15-day period, while six participants in the placebo group got sicker.
- N-acetylcysteine, a drug that treats lung conditions as well as acetaminophen overdoses, is being studied as a potential COVID-19 treatment by Melisa Lai-Becker, MD, site chief of emergency medicine at CHA Everett (Mass.) Hospital. After becoming curious about the drug’s ability to treat COVID-19, Dr. Lai-Becker gave N-acetylcysteine to about 200 COVID-19 patients in the emergency department, finding it was well-tolerated and eased some patients’ breathing. She is conducting a clinical drug trial for the drug at CHA Everett Hospital, but is facing challenges because the study is not funded.
- Vitamin D is being studied by JoAnn Manson, MD, chief of Boston-based Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s preventive medicine division. She became interested in vitamin D as a potential COVID-19 treatment because of its ability to strengthen the immune system early on in infections and reduce inflammation once the immune system generates its response. Her study, which plans to enroll 2,700 people within five days of their positive COVID-19 test, explores whether vitamin D can lessen transmission and hospitalizations for those infected with the disease.