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


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.



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.

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