Pfizer’s Paxlovid is being tested against post-COVID in a major Swedish study

In a new study conducted at the Karolinska University Hospital, Pfizer’s COVID drug, Paxlovid, is now being tested in patients with post-COVID. The study is one of the most extensive studies in the world currently being conducted for a drug for post-COVID.

“It is crucial that we are now trying to treat post-COVID with the ambition to cure so that this relatively young patient group can get on with their lives,” says Judith Bruchfeld, Senior Physician and Associate Professor at the Karolinska University Hospital and the Karolinska Institute, to Swedish Radio Ekot.

Some of the symptoms that may occur for those affected by post-COVID are fatigue, cognitive problems, pain and cardiovascular complications, and the symptoms can vary over time and may differ from person to person.

One of the challenges of post-COVID is that the underlying causes of the disease have not yet been fully established. However, one theory is that the virus remains in the body long after the initial infection.

“The hypothesis is that residual virus remains in post-COVID and maintains the disease, thus preventing people from recovering from acute COVID. Studies suggest the presence of spike protein from the virus in the blood for up to a year after the acute phase of the disease in patients with post-COVID,” Marcus Ståhlberg, Cardiologist at the Karolinska University Hospital and researcher at the Karolinska Institute, told Life Science Sweden.

He was one of the initiators of the study now being conducted at the Karolinska University Hospital in collaboration with Pfizer.

The study tests the COVID drug Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir/ritonavir) in patients with long-lasting symptoms following COVID-19. 400 patients are participating in the study, some receiving the drug and others a placebo for 15 days.

At the beginning of last year, Pfizer’s Paxlovid was approved in Europe for treating adults with COVID-19. It is an antiviral drug that reduces the virus’s replicative ability.

“If you have an acute SARS-CoV-2 infection, it lowers the virus levels,” says Marcus Ståhlberg.

The study at the Karolinska University Hospital is still at an early stage, and it is still too early to draw any conclusions about the drug’s effect on the patient group. The researchers expect the first results to be published as early as next year.

According to registry studies from the US, patients treated with Paxlovid during the acute phase of COVID were less likely to suffer from post-COVID, says Marcus Ståhlberg, but he emphasises that this does not prove that it can be used to treat chronic post-COVID.

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