Hope for long-term covid patients as new study will test Pfizer’s antiviral Paxlovid in patients with persistent symptoms months later
- 100 people who have had prolonged Covid symptoms for more than 3 months will take Paxlovid
- Researchers want to see if it will help with brain fog, fatigue and weakness
- 1 in 13 US adults are suffering from long-term covid and the results of the trials are expected next year
Paxlovid – an antiviral made by Pfizer – is now being looked at as a possible long Covid treatment.
The pharmaceutical giant’s flagship Covid drug received emergency approval in the US last December to treat high-risk patients, lowering their risk of death by 90 percent.
It is currently the only medicine you can use at home to treat Covid and has been given to millions of vulnerable Americans with underlying health conditions.
Now Stanford researchers are about to launch the first clinical trial of the drug to see it could also provide relief to people who are still sick months and years after the virus has been cleared.
Past research has shown that people given the drug are a quarter less likely to experience long-term covid — which usually causes intense fatigue, brain fog and muscle weakness.
So far there are no proven treatments for long Covid, and no one knows what causes the persistent symptoms.
A popular theory is that there may be bits of leftover virus wreaking havoc in the body. A recent study suggested that people with long-term covid undergo physical changes in their brains months after the initial infection clears.
It is officially estimated that more than 15 million Americans have had Covid in varying degrees.
Trial participants will take the antiviral for 10 days longer than people usually use, to see if it takes longer to work
what is long covid?
Long Covid is an informal term, used to describe persistent symptoms following a Covid infection that lasts longer than four weeks, according to the ONS.
A dizzying array of symptoms have been attributed to long Covid, including:
- extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- shortness of breath
- chest pain or tightness
- problems with memory and concentration (‘brain fog’)
- trouble sleeping (insomnia)
- pins and needles
- joint pain
- depression and anxiety
- tinnitus, earache
- nausea, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite
- fever, cough, headache, sore throat, changes in sense of smell or taste
There is no cure for the condition, although the NHS does recommend a number of treatments designed to relieve symptoms.
The new study hopes to enroll 200 adults who have been negative for Covid for three months but still have symptoms.
Half of the participants will receive Paxlovid and the other half a placebo.
To treat an infection, Paxlovid is given as six pills a day for five days, but participants in the new study will take the drug for 15 days to test the theory that the drug takes longer to take full effect.
The results of the trial are expected next year.
The first participant in the trial was 67-year-old Bill Fimbres of California, who has been suffering from long-standing Covid symptoms for a year and a half, including loss of smell and taste, debilitating fatigue and brain fog.
He said, “It’s like having someone else’s brain.”
Mr Fimbres will take his first dose of the drug or placebo on Monday.
He told NBC News, “If I could just get rid of one of my symptoms, that would be great. I’m just going on hope.”
There is already some evidence that Paxlovid may hinder long-term symptoms.
A Department of Veterans Affairs study this month suggested those who received the drug immediately after their covid diagnosis were 26 percent less likely to have lasting symptoms three months later than those who didn’t take the antiviral.
However, the participants were all age 60 or older with additional health conditions, meaning the findings may not apply to everyone.
Long Covid has puzzled scientists and doctors since it first appeared on their radar in 2020.
The causes have not been identified, but experts believe it may be related to the body’s immune response to the virus.
There have also been previous cases of people experiencing long-lasting symptoms after suffering from more common viruses such as the flu.
The CDC estimates that about 7.5 percent of American adults suffer from long-term Covid symptoms.
The patients are generally younger than 50 years and are more often women. Reports of long Covid are most common in southern states such as Kentucky and Alabama.