The NIH’s RECOVER initiative could lead to the first official treatment for long COVID-19

Betsy Goodfellow | August 1, 2023 | News story | Research and Development COVID-19, Infections and infestations, NIH, clinical trials, long covid 

As of 31 July 2023, The National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched the first trials of its ‘Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery’ (RECOVER) initiative. This consists of four trials named RECOVER-NEURO, RECOVER-VITAL, RECOVER-SLEEP and RECOVER-AUTONOMIC. The studies have recruited over 24,000 participants and Dr Kanecia Zimmerman from Duke University has confirmed that there has been “good feedback from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as others”.

RECOVER-NEURO is one of the first to open enrollment and intends to reduce brain fog and memory-related problems using a web-based brain training programme that improves cognitive function. RECOVER-VITAL, also one of the first to be launched, focuses on targeting SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for causing COVID-19.

The remaining two trials are set to be launched within the next few months; RECOVER-SLEEP will test the effectiveness of drugs such as melatonin, modafinil and solriamfetol in improving sleep, as well as an educational coaching system. The final trial, RECOVER-AUTONOMIC, will examine treatments for the autonomic nervous system; for example, using intravenous immune globulin to aid the immune system. 

The trials were initially supposed to launch at the beginning of 2023, however it took researchers a while to understand long COVID-19 well enough to formulate treatments for it. In addition, the study design had to approved by numerous governing bodies before it was officially released to the public.

While this should lead to positive outcomes, the Long-COVID Alliance has expressed its concern that the NIH has not presented a solid timeline for the trial results, meaning it will be at least a year before any positive results come through.

Dr Ziyad Al-Aly, from Washington University, commented: “It is a bit too late, but it’s certainly helping us move the ball forward… I wish they had the sense of urgency to get us to this stage two years ago.”           

Rebecca Lee

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