Steve Kirsch
Courtesy of Steve Kirsch
Los Altos Hills resident Steve Kirsch funded research into the drug fluvoxamine as a treatment for COVID-19. So far, doctors have failed to share his sense of urgency.

Steve Kirsch is baffled. He’s discovered a common medication that’s highly effective in minimizing the impacts of COVID-19 – two studies have proven so. But the mainstream medical community refuses to acknowledge its efficacy pending a third, much larger trial that would involve 1,100 participants and take until June to complete.

That’s time many COVID patients don’t have.

“It’s so tragic – a half-million people will die unnecessarily,” the Los Altos Hills resident told the Town Crier last week. “People say they need more data – are you (expletive) kidding me?”

Not only is fluvoxamine effective, according to Kirsch, but its side effects are minimal – usually only nausea. He said people run a greater risk taking Tylenol. Is the nearly 40-year-old generic drug also potentially effective against COVID variants? Kirsch says yes.

Still, the vast majority of doctors and the media are holding back. It’s beyond frustrating for the veteran tech entrepreneur, who is used to making things happen.

At the outset of the pandemic, Kirsch launched the COVID-19 Early Treatment Fund, pouring his own money into funding studies on potentially effective drugs already on the market. When he found the antidepressant fluvoxamine was startlingly effective at preventing COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths, he wanted to shout it out to the world. To his surprise, media outlets weren’t picking up the story. And online platforms censored his communications.

Kirsch received major exposure during a March 7 segment on “60 Minutes,” which documented his connection to doctors who found surprisingly effective results with fluvoxamine.

That story featured Dr. David Seftel, whose study of 125 participants followed a COVID outbreak of 200 workers at Golden Gate Fields racetrack in Berkeley. Of the 77 COVID patients who took fluvoxamine, none were hospitalized. Of the 48 who declined, 12.5% were hospitalized and one died.

Another trial, headed by Dr. Eric Lenze of Washington University in St. Louis, involved 152 patients. Again, none of the 80 patients who took the drug experienced clinical deterioration from COVID. Of the 72 who received the placebo, 8% did. Fluvoxamine’s anti-inflammatory properties seemed to stop progression of the disease.

Both randomized studies were published in peer-reviewed medical journals.

Gun-shy doctors

The revelations, chronicled in the “60 Minutes” story and relayed in another that made the front page of the Los Angeles Times, would surely encourage urgency in the medical community, leading to emergency approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and endorsement by the National Institutes of Health. Right?

Wrong. In fact, Kirsch appeared disappointed that only five additional participants signed up for the Phase 3 trial immediately following the nationally televised “60 Minutes” feature.

He figures doctors also are experiencing “gun-shyness” from hydroxychloroquine, a drug hyped by former President Donald Trump as a COVID cure that has since been proven ineffective.

“The medical community is seriously dragging their heels on overwhelmingly positive evidence (and no negative evidence) because they fear if they make another HCQ mistake, it’s over for their credibility,” Kirsch wrote in one of several articles on the matter. “So they are going to wait for Phase 3 data before making a move. People will die, but their credibility will be intact.”

Kirsch emphasized the two independent studies are “statistically significant. … Nobody in the world can explain how you can get these results if the drug doesn’t work.”

He’s often used a life-preserver analogy to get his point across: “If you are drowning and someone throws you a life preserver that was only tested 10 times and worked every time, you don’t say, ‘Well, I don’t think it was tested enough times,’ if that life preserver is your best option.”

The founder of seven high-tech companies, Kirsch is not going to simply wait for Phase 3 trial results. He’ll continue to push to make things happen – for him, it’s a matter of life or death.

For more information on Kirsch’s efforts, visit treatearly.org.