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A COVID-19 intensive care unit in Rio de Janeiro in May. Photo: Fabio Teixeira/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The readily available antidepressant fluvoxamine significantly reduced COVID-related hospitalizations, according to a large study published Wednesday.

Why it matters: The clinical trial suggests that a cheap, readily available drug could dramatically reduce serious illness and death when prescribed early.

  • Researchers from Canada, the U.S. and Brazil honed in on the drug for its anti-inflammatory properties for the study, published in the journal Lancet Global Health.

For the record: Fluvoxamine was approved by the FDA in the 1990s to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The big picture: Participants with an early COVID-19 diagnosis were given 100 milligrams of the drug twice daily for 10 days. Those in the control group were given a placebo.

  • The clinical trial looked at nearly 1,500 people in Brazil. Among the participants who were given fluvoxamine, the rate of hospitalization decreased by a third, according to the study.
  • Among the participants who followed through with the fluvoxamine protocol, one patient in the fluvoxamine died, compared to 12 in the control group.

What they're saying: University of Minnesota infectious disease scientist David Boulware, who conducted his own study of the drug in coronavirus patients, told the New York Times: "It's not a shiny new, expensive drug. The nice thing about this is it has a known safety profile."

Go deeper: Merck says COVID pill prevents 50% of deaths, hospitalizations

Go deeper

Omicron variant detected in more countries

The Galeao International airport in Rio de Janeiro, Brazi. Photo: Mauro Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images

Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and South Korea on Wednesday became the latest countries to report cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. They followed similar announcements made in Brazil and Japan on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The arrival of the "variant of concern" in more countries underscores the difficulties governments are facing as they seek to reopen economies stalled by nearly two years of pandemic restrictions in the era of global air travel.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 22 hours ago - Health

Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The travel bans and border closures prompted by the Omicron variant likely won't fully prevent its spread, but that won't stop countries from leaning on the measures.

Why it matters: The rapid speed at which countries turned to travel bans with the emergence of Omicron indicates border controls will increasingly become a weapon against infectious disease — whether or not public health experts agree they are effective.

Dec 1, 2021 - Health

Meta removes accounts linked to COVID disinformation effort by China

Facebook's corporate headquarters campus in Menlo Park, California. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Meta announced Wednesday it has removed over 600 Facebook and Instagram accounts linked to a Chinese influence operation that claimed the U.S. was pressuring the World Health Organization (WHO) to blame COVID on China.

Why it matters: Though Meta said the network was unsuccessful, it marks yet another COVID disinformation campaign instigated by China in an effort to discredit the U.S.