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Screening large population health databases for potential coronavirus disease 2019 therapeutics: a pharmacopeia-wide association study of commonly prescribed medications

MacFadden DR, Brown K, Buchan SA, Chung H, Kozak R, Kwong JC, Manuel D, Mubareka S, Daneman N. Open Forum Infect Dis. 2022; 9(5):ofac156. Epub 2022 Mar 29. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/ofid/ofac156


Background — For both the current and future pandemics, there is a need for high-throughput drug screening methods to identify existing drugs with potential preventative and/or therapeutic activity. Epidemiologic studies could complement lab-focused efforts to identify possible therapeutic agents.

Methods — We performed a pharmacopeia-wide association study (PWAS) to identify commonly prescribed medications and medication classes that are associated with the detection of SARS-CoV-2 in older individuals (>65 years) in long-term care homes (LTCH) and the community, between January 15th, 2020 and December 31st, 2020, across the province of Ontario, Canada.

Results — 26,121 cases and 2,369,020 controls from LTCH and the community were included in this analysis. Many of the drugs and drug classes evaluated did not yield significant associations with SARS-CoV-2 detection. However, some drugs and drug classes appeared significantly associated with reduced SARS-CoV-2 detection, including cardioprotective drug classes such as statins (weighted OR 0.91, standard p-value <0.01, adjusted p-value <0.01) and beta-blockers (weighted OR 0.87, standard p-value <0.01, adjusted p-value 0.01), along with individual agents ranging from levetiracetam (weighted OR 0.70, standard p-value <0.01, adjusted p-value <0.01) to fluoxetine (weighted OR 0.86, standard p-value 0.013, adjusted p-value 0.198) to digoxin (weighted OR 0.89, standard p-value <0.01, adjusted p-value 0.02).

Conclusions — Using this epidemiologic approach which can be applied to current and future pandemics we have identified a variety of target drugs and drug classes that could offer therapeutic benefit in COVID-19 and may warrant further validation. Some of these agents (e.g. fluoxetine) have already been identified for their therapeutic potential.

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