The US National Institutes of Health’s $1 billion Recover Initiative has picked Pfizer’s anti-viral drug Paxlovid as the first treatment it will study in patients with long COVID, organisers of the study said yesterday.
The complex medical condition involves more than 200 symptoms ranging from exhaustion and cognitive impairment to pain, fever and heart palpitations that can last for months and even years following a COVID-19 infection.
According to details of the study, posted on Clinicaltrials.gov, the randomised, placebo-controlled trial will test Pfizer’s treatment or a placebo in 1,700 volunteers aged 18 years and older.
The Duke Clinical Research Institute is supervising the study, which is scheduled to start on 1st January.
The trial will investigate a leading theory of the cause of long COVID, which holds that fragments of the virus persist in the tissues of some individuals, causing prolonged symptoms.
Patients in several case studies have reported improvements in their symptoms after taking Pfizer’s anti-viral treatment, and several physicians have called for the drug to be studied in a large, scientifically rigorous study in patients with long COVID.
Paxlovid, which combines a new Pfizer pill with the old anti-viral ritonavir, is currently authorised for use in the first days of a COVID infection to prevent severe disease in high-risk patients.
Estimates of long COVID prevalence range from five to 50 per cent of people who have had a COVID-19 infection. It affects people who have had both mild and severe COVID-19, including children, and can be severe enough to keep people out of work.
Pfizer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Edits by EP News Bureau