Patients Spend Thousands on Long COVID ‘Cure’
As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc for many patients long after their initial symptoms subside, some are seeking help in expensive and experimental forms.
Mother Jones reported on the case of a previously healthy man in his 20s, identified only as Owen, who contracted a mild case of COVID-19 in April 2021. After just a few days of a runny nose, Owen thought he was out of the woods. But, several weeks later, Owen began experiencing difficulty breathing, extreme exhaustion, brain fog, and digestive issues so severe he lost nearly 80 pounds.
When emergency room visits and traditional tests run by doctors didn’t help, Owen turned to the internet, where he found online support groups for COVID long haulers on Facebook and other sites, Mother Jones reported.
There were dozens of social media groups dedicated to an approach from former Stanford virologist Bruce Patterson, MD, Mother Jones reported. Patterson says that his company IncellDX provides test and treatment protocols that address “the underlying immunologic causes of long-haul COVID.” Patterson believes that an overactivation of cytokines plays a significant role in activating the body’s immune system.
After a blood test, Patterson offers a treatment protocol that he describes as “being specifically tailored to a patient’s test results — often a combination of off-label medications including blood pressure medications, steroids, an HIV medication called maraviroc, and the controversial antiparasitic drug ivermectin,” Mother Jones reported.
For patients, the tests, follow-up consults, and physician fees can cost anywhere from about $200 to several hundred dollars. Some of the medications can cost as much as several thousand dollars per month.
Though some patients said the approach has cured them, Mother Jones reported that it “uncovered unusual behavior by the team, including offering medical advice and recruiting patients on YouTube and social media, failing to disclose financial conflicts of interest, and reports of inconsistencies in lab results.”
“Taken together, these practices have raised the suspicions of some scientists and patient advocates who worry IncellDX may be using unproven tests and treatments to take advantage of the desperation of 14,000 long Covid patients,” the article states.
Patterson says that his approach has worked for 85% of patients, Mother Jones reported. He and his colleague, Ram Yogendra, MD, told Mother Jones that they are far ahead of other doctors in terms of treating patients suffering from long COVID.
For Owen, about a month into his treatment protocol, with thousands of dollars spent and not much improvement, he discontinued it, Mother Jones reported. Now, 6 months after his symptoms first started, he’s beginning to feel better.