Several studies have discovered a link between decreased mortality rates in COVID-19 patients prescribed certain antidepressants.
In February of this year, researchers out of France published an article in the journal of Molecular Psychology titled, “Association between antidepressant use and reduced risk of intubation or death in hospitalized patients with COVID-19: results from an observational study.” (Hoertel, N., et. Al. 2021)
A month earlier a study titled “Repurposing of CNS drugs to treat COVID-19 infection: targeting the sigma-1 receptor” was published in the European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience. (Hashimoto K., 2021)
Then on November 15 of this year, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a peer-reviewed study titled, “Mortality Risk Among Patients With COVID-19 Prescribed Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor Antidepressants.” (Oskotsky T, et al. 2021)
The three studies showed a connection between a significant decrease in mortality rate among COVID-19 patients taking prescribed SSRIs, antidepressants, specifically Fluoxetine. (Hoertel, N., et al. 2021)
The study out of the European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience attempted to explain the reasoning behind this significant decrease in mortality rate among COVID-19 patients taking SSRIs (specifically Fluoxetine).
Researchers found that the “sigma-1 receptor in the endoplasmic reticulum plays an important role in SARS-CoV-2 replication in cells.” In other words, overexpression of these Sigma-1 receptors could “prevent clinical deterioration in adult outpatients infected with SARS-CoV-2.” (Hashimoto K., 2021)
The results of each of these studies add to a body of evidence indicating that SSRIs “may have beneficial effects against the worst symptoms of COVID-19.” (UCSF-Stanford)
The methods for these studies were largely observational, looking at the outcomes of nearly a half-million patients who contracted COVID-19. Researchers were able to “compare the outcomes of patients with COVID-19 on SSRIs to a matched set of patients with COVID-19 who were not taking them, thus teasing out the effects of age, sex, race, ethnicity, and comorbidities associated with severe COVID-19, such as diabetes and heart disease, as well as other medications the patients were taking.” (UCSF-Stanford)
The results have given researchers more information on treating and combatting the COVID-19 virus, indicating that Sigma-1 receptors play a significant role in the prevention of severe illness from COVID-19.
These studies also demonstrate the necessity of open and honest testing and reporting of COVID-19 infections, as more information continues to aid scientists in the development of treatments for the virus.
SSRIs have therefore been linked to a reduction in infection of cells with SARS-CoV-2 and demonstrated that certain SSRIs, specifically Fluoxetine, exert antiviral effects on the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
All observational studies noted the need for further lab-controlled experiments to confirm the cause of this reduced mortality rate and determine the standard efficacy of SSRIs on preventing severe illness and death, and the analyzing the antiviral effects of SSRIs on SARS-CoV-2.
Hoertel, N., Sánchez-Rico, M., Vernet, R. et al. Association between antidepressant use and reduced risk of intubation or death in hospitalized patients with COVID-19: results from an observational study. Mol Psychiatry 26, 5199–5212 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41380-021-01021-4
Hashimoto K. (2021). Repurposing of CNS drugs to treat COVID-19 infection: targeting the sigma-1 receptor. European archives of psychiatry and clinical neuroscience, 271(2), 249–258. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00406-020-01231-x
Oskotsky T, Marić I, Tang A, et al. Mortality Risk Among Patients With COVID-19 Prescribed Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor Antidepressants. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(11):e2133090. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.33090