U.S. to Launch Long COVID Trial Focused on Sleep, Exercise

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May 9, 2024 – The National institutes of Health will soon start a clinical trial in an attempt to find potential treatments for symptoms of long COVID, focusing on sleep disturbances, problems with exercise, and what’s known as post-exertional malaise. 

The trials will look to enroll more than 1,500 people across 50 study sites to tackle some of the most common symptoms of long COVID. 

“When people can’t get reliable sleep, can’t exert themselves and feel sick following tasks that used to be simple, the physical and mental anguish can lead to feelings of utter helplessness,” Walter J. Koroshetz, MD, director of the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, said in a statement. “We urgently need to come up with answers to help those struggling with long COVID feel whole again.”

The new trials will be part of the NIH’s Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery initiative, known as RECOVER. Since beginning enrollment in July 2023 for four trials, RECOVER now features eight trials across the country looking at all parts of long COVID. RECOVER is part of a $1.15 billion nationwide program that Congress approved in 2020 for the NIH to research and test treatments for long COVID. 

While focused on sleep disturbances, the trial will test two FDA-approved drugs currently used to treat people who have problems staying awake during the day, a condition known as hypersomnia. There will also be a trial to test if melatonin, an over-the-counter supplement commonly used for sleep disorders, helps people with long COVID-related sleep problems. Light therapy will also be tested. 

The trials that deal with problems people have had with exercise will focus on what’s known as personalized cardiopulmonary rehabilitation, where patients experiment with exercise training, strength and flexibility training, education, and social support. 

Another trial will look at structured pacing, which is designed to help people with exercise problems identify, control, and ease long COVID symptoms.