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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

Jan 15, 2022 - Health

Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron

Three COVID-19 testing companies place testing locations outside Grand Central Terminal on Jan. 14 in New York City. Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Experts are warning that subsequent COVID-19 variants are likely to come after Omicron, AP reports.

Why it matters: The warnings come as there's no guarantee that subsequent variants "will cause milder illness or that existing vaccines will work against them," underscoring the need for widespread vaccination, AP writes.

Judge nixes Gulf of Mexico oil leases in climate-focused ruling

Tug boats prepare to tow the semi-submersible drilling platform Noble Danny Adkins through the Port Aransas Channel into the Gulf of Mexico on December 12, 2020 in Port Aransas, Texas. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday canceled the Biden administration's late 2021 sale of new oil-and-gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why it matters: The ruling that the greenhouse gas emissions analysis by the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was insufficient is a win for green groups that challenged the decision, as they seek to curb fossil fuel production.

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Credit: https://earth.nullschool.net

Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine Thursday night, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.