Long COVID patients are turning to experimental therapies in the hope of finding relief from their debilitating symptoms. However, doctors are concerned about the potential harm that some of these unproven treatments could cause, both physically and financially. Many patients have been suffering from symptoms for years, leaving them willing to try unconventional treatments. Patients have also been found to be at risk for scams, including those being offered without medical oversight.
Patients with long COVID symptoms often deal with brain fog, extreme fatigue, and severe headaches, which can severely affect their quality of life and render them unable to work full-time. There is still no established, effective intervention or cure for these symptoms. While some patients have found support in online groups, doctors worry about the risks that come with unproven treatment claims, like the misuse of antiparasitic drug ivermectin.
One costly experimental treatment under scrutiny is “blood washing” or apheresis, which involves filtering blood to remove tiny microclots that may be clogging delicate capillaries and cutting off oxygen to tissue. However, there is no published data from randomized, controlled clinical trials documenting its effectiveness. Stem cell therapy is also being sold on hope, with many clinics promoting unlicensed, unproven products that have caused serious harm.
Doctors have voiced concerns about predatory marketing and the financial impact on vulnerable patients. Some treatments cost thousands of dollars, leaving patients struggling to make ends meet. Patients should always consult their doctor and pharmacist to ensure there are no dangerous interactions with any regular medication.
Post-COVID clinics explore different strategies that have yet to be fully studied, but doctors say repurposing existing therapies and drugs should be done under medical supervision and with full transparency. While the lack of urgency and progress in clinical research of long COVID treatments is frustrating, patients should always speak with their doctor or specialist before trying any experimental or unproven therapies. As one doctor advises, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.