Suffering from long COVID? Here’s how a new NIH study could help ease symptoms

The National Institutes of Health is launching several clinical trials related to treatment for long-COVID patients, hoping to evaluate multiple treatments that may finally ease symptoms for millions worldwide.

The trials will include four potential treatments and lead to additional trials in the coming months that will test at least seven more treatments, including drugs, biologics, medical devices and other therapies.

“Collectively, this integrated set of trials could inform clinical care in a broad range of long COVID patients,” acting NIH Director Lawrence A. Tabak said during a briefing Monday with reporters. “Our hope is that these treatments will work, however we may learn that some interventions do not provide measurable relief and this will also inform patient care.”

About 15% of all adults in the U.S. reported having had long COVID symptoms at some point while 6% now report symptoms, according to a January study from KFF, formerly known as the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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What are the long COVID treatment trials?

The clinical trials are a part of the agency’s Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (Recover) initiative launched in 2021, the world’s largest program designed to understand, treat and prevent long COVID.

The trials will focus on viral persistence, cognitive dysfunction and other symptoms typically seen in long COVID patients:

  • RECOVER-VITAL will focus on treating SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, when it stays in the body and causes the immune system to damage bodily organs. Trial participants will be given the antiviral Paxlovid for longer dosing regimens to see if it improves long COVID symptoms.

  • RECOVER-NEURO will examine treatments for cognitive dysfunctions related to long COVID, like brain fog, memory problems and difficulty with attention.

  • RECOVER-SLEEP will test interventions to help sleep patterns or the ability to sleep after having COVID-19. One trial will focus on hypersomnia, or excessive sleep, while another will focus on problems falling or staying asleep.

  • RECOVER-AUTONOMIC will target symptoms associated with the autonomic nervous system, which controls a range of bodily functions including heart rate, breathing and the digestive system.

  • Exercise and fatigue: NIH is also developing a fifth platform looking at the inability to exercise and fatigue.

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The agency plans to enroll up to 300 participants in the NEURO trial and 900 in the VITAL trial, Dr. Kanecia Zimmerman, principal investigator of the RECOVER Clinical Trials Data Coordinating Center at Duke University Medical Center, said during the Monday briefing. The SLEEP and AUTONOMIC trials will launch in the next couple of months, while the agency plans to launch the exercise trial by the end of the year.

Those interested in learning more about the upcoming trials can visit Each trial will have specific criteria and restrictions, so not everyone who applies will be accepted to participate.

“Clinical trials to test effective treatments and interventions are a core component of the whole-of-government response to long COVID,” said Adm. Rachel Levine, assistant secretary for health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Coupled with adequate supports and services, access to clinical care and up-to-date information on what we know about long COVID, we can work toward relief for individuals and families impacted most.”

Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.

Health and patient safety coverage at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial input.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Suffering from long COVID? How new NIH study could help ease symptoms

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