October 1, 2023

New Study Finds That Diabetes Medication May Help Long COVID Patients

3 min read

Smiling female doctor talking to senior patient in hospital

Just this past March, three years into the COVID-19 pandemic, Denver ended its COVID state of emergency. While the pandemic is ongoing, there are those who are living with the side effects of what medical professionals refer to as ‘long COVID.’ Fortunately, a recent study indicates that the diabetes medication metformin may offer patients some relief.

What Did the Study Find?

According to a study published on June 8, 2023, in Lancet Infectious Diseases, the results of the research project COVID-OUT, a U.S.-based, six-site, phase III randomized controlled trial (RCT) showed that the diabetes medication metformin reduced the risk of developing long COVID by 41.3% in patients diagnosed with acute COVID-19. The study also considered the efficacy of the drugs ivermectin and fluvoxamine, but neither of those drugs reduced the risk of long COVID-19.

The study, the first of its kind to study long COVID, assessed 6,602 patients between Dec 30, 2020, and Jan 28, 2022. Of those patients, 1,431 enrolled in the study; researchers randomly assigned patients to one of six groups, who either parallelly received – placebo and placebo, metformin and fluvoxamine, metformin and ivermectin, ivermectin and placebo, metformin and placebo, or fluvoxamine and placebo.

What Is Long COVID?

In long COVID, although the disease COVID-19 remains inactive in the individual, they continue to experience symptoms, such as shortness of breath, fatigue, cough, and chest pain. Other persistent symptoms range from insomnia and joint pain to headache and a poor appetite. Some long COVID patients experience a loss of smell, itchy, runny nose, dizziness, and muscle pain. Those experiencing severe fatigue and other symptoms may join the 15 million individuals undergoing at-home care. According to Ankota, home care accounts for more than 600 million annual patient visits.

Long COVID doesn’t typically require hospitalization. Most individuals undergo outpatient treatment to alleviate symptoms and improve their quality of life. This treatment starts with the patient’s primary care physician, who develops a treatment plan based on the individual and their specific symptoms. Treatment typically includes appointments with specialists, outpatient therapy at one of the long COVID centers in the U.S., and at-home care through a home healthcare program. Most patients can avoid long-distance travel since 48 of the 50 U.S. states house a long COVID center.

How Can We Prevent Long COVID?

Preventing COVID-19 remains the best solution to preventing long COVID. That means adhering to social distancing protocols, such as remaining 6 feet apart from other individuals and wearing masks in public, according to the CDC. You should also clean regularly to reduce the spread of the virus that causes COVID and hundreds of other germs, and get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Following up your initial vaccination with boosters also helps prevent COVID-19, therefore long COVID. Although medical researchers will need to conduct further studies, at present, it seems that administering metformin shortly after COVID-19 infection can reduce the risk of developing long COVID. So far, that’s the only drug that has shown efficacy in preventing the disease.

Future Research Needs

Medical researchers need to follow up the initial metformin study with others, such as those that examine the efficacy of the drug in those who received a full vaccination dose, those who have received their first vaccination dose, and those who have received full vaccination and booster vaccination using monovalent COVID-19 vaccines. Researchers should conduct studies focused on those who experienced a prior SARS-CoV-2 infection. These studies would consist of both prospective and interventional trials of metformin and other therapeutics as they’re developed.

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