August 20, 2021

Covid-19 roundup: Could a generic antidepressant become a key Covid-19 treatment?

Daily Briefing

    Covid-19 hospitalizations for patients under 50 have hit a new high, some community Covid-19 testing sites reopen, and more in this week's roundup of Covid-19 news. 

    • Fluvoxamine, a generic antidepressant that has primarily been prescribed for patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder, may reduce the risk of hospitalizations for Covid-19 patients in the early stages of the disease, the Los Angeles Times reports. Data from several clinical trials suggest the drug may reduce the severity of Covid-19 symptoms in patients and keep them from being hospitalized. For instance, a clinical trial from Washington University found that 80 patients who received fluvoxamine did not experience medical deterioration, but 6 out of 72 patients who received a placebo did. And the largest trial, which involved 1,472 patients in Brazil, found that patients who received fluvoxamine experienced a 30% reduction in risk, yielding a 99.6% probability that fluvoxamine works better than a placebo. Edward Mills, a researcher from McMaster University who oversaw the trial in Brazil, said, "This is the first drug we've tried out that found a significant effect." (Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 8/18)
    • As the delta variant continues to spread, increased demand for coronavirus testing has led several counties and localities across the country to reopen community testing sites that initially closed in the spring, the New York Times reports. According to HHS, an average of 900,000 coronavirus tests were being performed daily at the end of July, compared to 500,000 to 600,000 tests at the beginning of the month. Many testing sites were either converted into vaccination sites or shut down altogether when the vaccines were authorized, and testing largely shifted to the private sector, according to the Times. Now, localities in California, Florida, Delaware, and Louisiana have either opened new public testing sites, expanded hours at existing testing sites, or combined testing and vaccination services at different sites to meet new demand for testing. (Anthes, New York Times, 8/11)
    • A new study published in Health Affairs suggests that the first five months of the United States' Covid-19 vaccination campaign helped prevent almost 140,000 deaths and 3 million new cases. Researchers from RAND and Indiana University created models to estimate the number of Covid-19 deaths that would have occurred without vaccinations. They found that, overall, the 50 states and Washington, D.C., experienced an average of 5 fewer Covid-19 deaths per 10,000 adult residents through May 9 due to early vaccination efforts. And, after adjusting for population size, the researchers found that New York experienced the largest estimated reduction in deaths, with 11.7 fewer deaths per 10,000 residents. "This study brings into focus the dramatic success of the early months of the nation's coronavirus vaccine rollout," Christopher Whaley, a policy researcher at RAND and the study's senior author, said. "The findings provide support for policies that further expand vaccine administration to enable a larger proportion of the nation's population to benefit." (Davis, HealthLeaders Media, 8/18)
    • According to CDC data, the number of Americans under 50 being hospitalized for Covid-19 has hit a pandemic high. According to the New York Times, the increase in hospitalizations is especially pronounced among children and younger adults. For instance, 263 children were hospitalized with Covid-19 each day between Aug. 5 and Aug. 11, compared with a previous peak of 217 in early January. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the White House's chief medical advisor, warned, "The hospitalizations are on the brink of actually overrunning the hospitals, particularly [ICUs]." (Anthes, New York Times, 8/15)
    • The United States accounts for more than 20% of all worldwide Covid-19 cases for the first time since mid-February, according to a USA Today analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. The country reported more than 900,000 new cases in one week, which is the highest total since a seven-day period ending Feb. 4. In addition, 46 states reported a rise in new cases, with Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, and Mississippi recording all-time highs within the last week. "This is going very steeply upward with no signs of having [peaked] out," National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins said on Sunday. "So I will be surprised if we don't cross 200,000 cases a day in the next couple of weeks." Currently, the United States is reporting an average of 129,000 cases a day—a 700% increase in average daily cases since July, Becker's Hospital Review reports. (Bean, Becker's Hospital Review, 8/16)
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