Can an Addiction Drug Treat Long Covid?
22 March 2023
Some doctors are prescribing low dose naltrexone (LDN) for patients with symptoms that develop or persist after a Covid-19 infection: also known as Long Covid. It’s estimated that millions of Americans are living with Long Covid, and without a viable treatment in place, the economic impact of their continued absence from the country’s workforce will be much harder to ignore.
Some doctors prescribe LDN off-label for chronic conditions like fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn’s disease. Unlike new-to-the-market blockbuster drugs, pharmaceutical companies don’t stand to profit much from one that’s been around for decades, and, as a result, aren’t spending money promoting it. LDN also has yet to go fully mainstream because the medical establishment has long ignored and dismissed the chronic and invisible conditions it has been used to treat — myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) in particular.
LDN doesn’t work for everyone living with post-Covid symptoms and conditions. “Right now, ‘Long Covid’ is a huge umbrella term that encompasses more than 200 symptoms,” “It’s unlikely that everything currently labeled ‘Long Covid’ is all the same condition and would respond to the same treatment.”
Though it depends on the dosage and pharmacy, a one-month prescription for LDN to treat Long Covid typically costs between $20 and $100. “The biggest risk [of taking LDN]… is paying for it and it not working,” “…if people see an improvement in their symptoms, it typically happens after two and three months on LDN.“ “But in terms of side effects, some people may experience a little bit of GI upset or trouble sleeping initially, but that seems to go away after a week or two.”
“It would be great if the NIH could fund randomized controlled trials,” “…because that would really give [the drug] a boost in credibility and rigor and reputation behind a scientific study in this area.” This would be entirely possible through the $1.15 billion Congress provided to the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) initiative in December 2020 to fund Long Covid research over a four-year period. At this point, $811 million has already been allocated; part of the remaining $339 million will be used to fund clinical trials to evaluate potential treatments for Long Covid symptoms.
Multiple research projects are underway to discover more about LDN’s usefulness.