Could Paxlovid treat long COVID? Stanford researchers launch study to find out

Typically Paxlovid is given for five days to patients who are expiring early COVID symptoms. This study triples that dose.

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ByLuz Pena via KGO logo
Wednesday, November 23, 2022
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Stanford researchers launch study to see if Paxlovid could help combat symptoms of long COVID.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A new Stanford study is giving people experiencing long COVID symptoms hope. Doctors are using the antiviral drug, Paxlovid, to see if it works for them.

For the past year and a half, Bill Fimbres has been searching for answers. What started as a mild case of COVID has turned into a battle with long COVID.

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"Hard part. I can't exercise. I used to exercise daily. I just can't do it anymore. Cooking. Eating, tasting. I got to be the king of texture because that is all I go by, texture. Also, the frustration of not being able to think straight," said Fimbres

After COVID, Fimbres lost his sense of smell and taste but that was just the beginning. He's been experiencing brain fog, fatigue, and challenges with balance. These symptoms limit his daily interactions and activities.

"If I go to Costco to go shopping that is it. The rest of the day I have to relax and take it easy," said Fimbres.

Luz Pena: "What is your limit?"

Bill Fimbres: "I'm still exploring it. You try to push it and push it."

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Fimbres is not alone. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that approximately 7.7 million to 23 million people in this country have long COVID. Stanford is hoping to find answers for millions with the first Paxlovid study targeting long COVID.

"We don't know why some people get long COVID, but one of the lead hypotheses is that maybe there is residual virus in the body. That portion of the virus in the body is causing the outgoing symptoms and so Paxlovid is antiviral and we know that it works very well in acute COVID. We know that it's safe," said Dr. Upi Singh, Stanford Medicine Professor of Infectious Disease.

Stanford's Dr. Singh is a co-principal investigator of the study.

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"We have to enroll 200 participants. We'll be enrolling into the New Year for sure. Each participant will be followed for four and a half months. What we are looking for is does treatment with Paxlovid improve symptoms yes/no? If we do see an improvement in symptoms is that sustained over time," said Dr. Singh.

Typically Paxlovid is given for five days to patients who are experiencing early COVID symptoms. This study triples that dose.

"We picked the 15-day time point as a time point where there is plenty of human safety data. This study had to be approved by the FDA and so their way of data of 15 days with Paxlovid in humans. The second is there are a number of drug interactions that can occur when you use Paxlovid. Part of our screening and part of our entry into the study is that we have to ensure that people are not on medications that will interact with the Paxlovid," said Dr. Singh.

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At UCSF, Dr. Michael Peluso has been tracking long COVID patients. He is hoping this study pinpoints what they have seen in some patients.

"Some people who already had long COVID got COVID again and took Paxlovid felt better in terms of their long COVID symptoms. So, that made a lot of researchers wonder is there something going on here," said Dr. Peluso.

As for Fimbres, COVID may have taken his sense of smell and taste, but what it can't take is the love of his family.

"We are excited and hoping this trial will give us some answers at least," said Verna Fimbres.

Some patients will be given Paxlovid and others a Placebo.

If you would like to sign up for this trial you can send an e-mail to TreatCovid@Stanford.Edu. Researchers are hoping to have clear data by the summer of 2023.

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