Enrollment has opened for four clinical trials aimed at evaluating new treatments for long COVID, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The trials are part of the NIH's Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) Initiative and are intended to test the safety and efficacy of potential treatments. Congress approved $1.15 billion in funding for the NIH to research and test long COVID treatments in December 2020. Additional trials for seven other treatments are expected to launch in the coming months.
However, some advocates have expressed concerns about the pace of progress. The Long COVID Alliance welcomed the NIH's efforts but noted that important questions remain unanswered and criticized the lack of transparency surrounding the RECOVER Initiative and its budget.
Long COVID patients have become increasingly frustrated with the lack of effective treatments, leading some doctors to resort to off-label use of certain drugs.
Dr. Walter J. Koroshetz, director of the NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and co-lead of the RECOVER Initiative, acknowledged the challenges of defining and quantifying long COVID. Estimates suggest that 5% to 10% of those infected with COVID-19 experience long COVID, but solid numbers are difficult to obtain.
The four trials under the RECOVER Initiative focus on viral persistence, neurocognitive symptoms, sleep issues, and autonomic nervous system problems. The trials will evaluate various treatments, including antiviral medications, web-based training programs, direct current stimulation, melatonin, light therapy, and an educational coaching system.
Enrollment for the first trial, which focuses on viral persistence, has already begun. The trial on cognitive dysfunction will launch soon, followed by trials on sleep issues, autonomic nervous system problems, and exercise intolerance.
The Long COVID Alliance has criticized the lack of a timeline for results, suggesting that it may take at least a year to see meaningful outcomes from the trials. They argue that this delay is unacceptable considering long COVID will have been present for over four years by then.
For individuals interested in participating in long COVID trials, information on how to join can be found on the RECOVER Initiative's website.
Overall, while progress is being made with clinical trials to evaluate new treatments for long COVID, concerns remain about the speed of the process and the lack of transparency surrounding the NIH's research efforts.