Big Pharma Can’t Figure Out How To Cash In On ‘Long COVID’

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Dylan Housman Deputy News Editor
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Major pharmaceutical companies are struggling to develop treatments for “long COVID” because it’s been nearly impossible to nail down what exactly the ailment actually is, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal.

The rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines and antiviral treatments resulted in record-breaking profits for companies like Pfizer, which say they plan to continue cashing in on the pandemic and its new variants for years to come. Treating “long COVID,” however, has remained elusive, as scientists can’t even agree on what exactly the condition is or isn’t.

Head of biotechnology company Ovid Therapeutics, Jeremy Levin, told The WSJ that big pharma is eager to jump into the long COVID game, but they don’t have enough data on how to do so. “It’s not that the industry doesn’t want to get in; it’s just that the data hasn’t played out, yet,” he said. “And until you can have more clear targets, you don’t have a measurable outcome.” (RELATED: The CDC Has A New Boogeyman To Keep COVID Restrictions Around Even Longer)

The government has failed in its role to research long COVID, at least so far. The National Institutes of Health got $1.2 billion from Congress more than a year ago to study long COVID, but has yet to make much meaningful progress. Researchers may have recently discovered a reliable biomarker for long COVID, but that would only be the first step toward developing clinical trials for a treatment.

The most commonly reported symptom of long COVID is fatigue, according to The WSJ, but patients have reported a vast variety of other ailments ranging from loss of smell to anxiety to memory loss. One study found at least 203 potential symptoms of long COVID.

Global director of vaccine development at Cleveland Clinic, Ted Ross, told The WSJ that it will likely take persistent protest from patients for big pharma companies to devote more resources to the condition. But for now, they aren’t biting, for the most part. Pfizer said earlier this year it currently has no clinical trials in progress devoted to long COVID treatment.