COVID-OUT: Early Outpatient Treatment for SARS-CoV-2 Infection (COVID-19)

  • days left to enroll
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    University of Minnesota
Updated on 26 November 2021


The purpose of this trial is to understand whether:

  1. Metformin vs fluvoxamine vs ivermectin vs metformin+fluvoxamine vs metformin+ivermectin is superior to placebo in non-hospitalized adults with SARS-CoV-2 disease for preventing Covid-19 disease progression.
  2. To understand if the active treatment arms are superior to placebo in improving viral load, serologic markers associated with Covid-19, and gut microbiome in non-hospitalized adults with SARS-CoV-2 infection.
  3. To understand if any of the active treatment arms prevent long-covid syndrome, PASC (post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection).


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a rapidly spreading viral infection causing COVID-19 disease. There currently is no definitive preventive or early outpatient treatment therapy for Covid-19. Six observational studies have found decreased severity of Covid-19 disease among persons with metformin use before diagnosis with Covid-19:

  1. Cariou et al, Diabetologia, adults with diabetes (DM) in France: OR mortality 0.59 (0.42, 0.84)
  2. Crouse et al, adults with DM at Univ of Alabama Birmingham: OR mortality 0.33 (0.13-0.84)
  3. Bramante et al, Lancet Healthy Longevity, females with DM or obesity, claims data from 50 US5 states: OR mortality 0.759 (0.601, 0.960) by propensity matching; OR 0.785 (0.650, 0.951) by Cox model.
  4. Lou et al, Am J Trop Med, adults with diabetes in China, OR for survival: 4.36 (1.22-15.59)
  5. Bramante et al. Under review, in adults with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and +SARS-CoV-2, OR for admission: 0.42 (0.18-1.01, p=0.05).
  6. Bramante et al. Under review, in adults with Covid-19, OR for admission 0.46 (0.27-0.80), p<0.01; mortality, OR 0.49 (0.26-0.94); and metformin was associated with lower IL-6 (non-significant) lower neutrophil/lymphocyte ratio and CPR, and equivalent lactate and bicarbonate as non-metformin.

Kow, J Med Virol conducted a meta analysis, with an overall odds ratio for mortality of 0.62 (0.43-0.89).

Gordon et al found decreased SARS-CoV-2 and increased cell viability with metformin in vitro. (Gordon et al, Nature). While anti-viral activity may be contributing to the observational associations of reduced severity of Covid-19, metformin has a proven history of beneficial immune-modulatory effects, including on CRP, IL-6 and TNF-alpha, neutrophil extracellular traps, and improved T cell immunity. Outpatient metformin use has now been associated with lower IL-6, CRP, and neutrophil-lymphocyte ratio in persons with Covid-19.

In addition to metformin, fluvoxamine appears to have important anti-viral and anti-inflammatory effects in SARS-CoV-2 infection. There is evidence that SARS-CoV-2 infection causes ER stress and activates pathways of unfolded protein response. Sigma-1 receptor (S1R) is an ER chaperone protein that regulates cytokine production through interaction with IRE1. S1R modulation has demonstrated significant changes to coronavirus replication, and atypical antipsychotics with S1R activity have displayed protective effects against clinical deterioration. Fluvoxamine is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor that is a powerful S1R agonist. Fluvoxamine has previously been shown to protect mice from septic shock and reduce the inflammatory response. There is potential for fluvoxamine as an immunomodulatory treatment for SARS-Cov-2. Fluvoxamine in CACO2 cells infected with SARS-Cov-2 had a reduction in production of a subset of cytokines including IL-6, IL-8, CXCL1, and CXCL10.53 A randomized controlled clinical trial of 152 patients showed that patients who received fluvoxamine were less likely to experience clinical deterioration, or serious adverse events due to SARS-Cov-2 when compared to placebo (0% vs. 8%). A follow-up real-world observational cohort had similar findings of 0% (0/65) hospitalization with fluvoxamine vs. 12% (6/48) with observation.

Ivermectin has also shown anti-inflammatory effects that would reduce the harmful cytokine cascade noted in severe Covid-19 disease. A recent trial assessing a multi-therapy including 12mg one-time dose of ivermectin found a 75% reduction in hospitalizations. Another small double-blinded RCT showed significant increased chance of viral clearance after a 5-day course of ivermectin. Another March 2021 RCT reported no effect on diminishing symptoms, but was under-powered for assessing reductions in hospitalization. An RCT with ivermectin must be done in the US, as endemic strongyloidiasis in other countries may confound results.

While vaccine development for SARS-CoV-2 has been promising, there may be reduced willingness among the public to receive a vaccine developed so quickly. This is a substudy with laboratory outcomes. The intervention is metformin, a biguanide, administered in its immediate release formation, 1,500mg daily.

Condition Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, COVID19
Treatment Placebo, Metformin, Fluvoxamine, Ivermectin
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT04510194
SponsorUniversity of Minnesota
Last Modified on26 November 2021


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Positive laboratory test for active SARS-CoV-2 viral infection based on local laboratory standard (i.e. +PCR) within 3 days of randomization
No known history of confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection
BMI >= 25kg/m2 by self-report height/weight or >= 23kg/m2 in patients who self-identify in South Asian or Latinx background
Willing and able to comply with study procedures (i.e. swallow pills)
GFR>45ml/min within 2 weeks for patients >75 years old, or with history of heart, kidney, or liver failure
Has an address and electronic device for communication

Exclusion Criteria

Symptom onset greater than 7 days before randomization (symptoms not required for inclusion)
Immune compromised state (solid organ transplant, bone marrow transplant, AIDS, on high dose steroids)
Hepatic impairment (Child-Pugh B and C) or other condition that, in the opinion of the investigator, would affect safety
Enrollment in another blinded Randomized Controlled Trial for COVID-19
Already received an effective (FDA approved/EUA) therapy for COVID-19 (currently monoclonal antibody treatment)
Other unstable medical condition or combination of home medications that in the view of the PI make it unsafe for the individual to participate
History of severe kidney disease i.e
Stage 4 or 5 CKD, or Estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate (eGFR) of < 45ml/min/1.73 m2
Inability to obtain informed consent
Other kidney disease that in the opinion of the investigator would affect clearance
Alcohol use disorder
Unstable heart failure (Stage 3 or 4 heart failure)
Allergic reaction to metformin, fluvoxamine, or ivermectin in the past
Hospitalized, for COVID-19 or other reasons
Bipolar disease: individuals who report they have bipolar disorder or are taking medication for bipolar disorder (lithium, valproate, high-dose antipsychotic), unless the investigator concludes that the risk for mania is unlikely
Current loa loa or onchocerciasis infection
Typhoid, BCG, or cholera vaccination within the 14-days or 3 days after
Medication Exclusions
Cimetidine, hydroxychloroquine, insulin, sulfonylurea, dolutegravir, patiromer, ranolazine, tafenoquine
Rasagiline, selegiline, or monoamine oxidase inhibitors, linezolid, methadone
Duloxetine, methylene blue
Tizanidine, ramelteon, sodium picosulfate
Alosetron, agomelatine, bromopride, dapoxetine, tamsimelteon, thioridazine, urokinase, pimozide
The following medications may not need to be excluded when dose for that
individual is considered alongside the low dose of fluvoxamine being used and
other medications being used. The PI or site PI may review and decide if the
patient should be excluded from the fluvoxamine arms
Taking SSRIs, SNRIs, or tricyclic antidepressants, unless these are at a low dose such that a study investigator concludes that a clinically significant interaction with fluvoxamine (ie either serotonin syndrome or TCA overdose) is unlikely (examples: participant takes escitalopram but only at 10mg daily; that dose plus 100mg fluvoxamine would be insufficient to cause serotonin syndrome; or, participant takes amitriptyline but only at 25mg nightly; even if fluvoxamine inhibits its metabolism, it would be an insufficient dose to cause QTc prolongation or problematic side effects). Risk Class C, monitor therapy
Individuals who take alprazolam or diazepam and are unwilling to cut the medication by 20% (rationale: fluvoxamine modestly inhibits the metabolism of these drugs). Risk Class C, monitor therapy
Participants taking theophylline, clozapine, or olanzapine (drugs with a narrow therapeutic index that are primarily metabolized by CYP 1A2, which is inhibited by fluvoxamine) will be reviewed with a study investigator and excluded unless the investigator concludes that the risk to the participant is low (this would be unlikely; example: participant takes clozapine only as needed and is willing to avoid it for the 14 days of the study)
Patients will be advised that there is a small risk that the following substances will be affected by fluvoxamine, but that significant effects are not likely at the low dose being used: caffeine, nicotine, melatonin. Risk Class C, monitor therapy
Taking warfarin-also known as Coumadin, NSAIDs, and Aspirin (rationale: increased risk of bleeding), phenytoin (rationale: fluvoxamine inhibits its metabolism), clopidogrel (rationale: fluvoxamine inhibits its metabolism from pro-drug to active drug which raises risk of cardiovascular events), and St John's wort (rationale: fluvoxamine + St John's wort are considered contraindicated because of the risk of serotonin syndrome) Risk C, monitor therapy
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