Lingering depression in COVID-19 survivors may be highly treatable, a small Italian study suggests. Doctors treated 58 patients who had developed post-COVID depression with a widely used class of antidepressant drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs.
These include sertraline, sold by Pfizer under the brand name Zoloft, GlaxoSmithKline’s Paxil (paroxetine), Eli Lilly and Co’s Prozac (fluoxetine) and Celexa (citalopram) from AbbVie’s Allergan unit. Usually, about 66% of patients see improvement with SSRIs, but among those with post-COVID-19 depression, 91% responded to treatment within four weeks, researchers reported this week at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology meeting in Lisbon.
They speculate that depression after COVID-19 is related to inflammation caused by the coronavirus, and note that SSRIs have some anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. Dr. Livia De Picker of the University of Antwerp in Belgium, who was not involved in the study, said in a statement that the findings are particularly important for survivors with the syndrome of persistent symptoms known as Long COVID, which often includes depression.
A separate study presented at the meeting found that while SSRIs eased depression in COVID-19 survivors, the drugs had less of an effect on their anxiety levels.