Long COVID: Leverage personalized medication optimization to facilitate recoveryRuslan Dorfman, PhD, MBA
As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, it is becoming evident that a significant number of people report lasting effects of the infection or have had the usual symptoms for many weeks or even months. Most people recover within two weeks or so, but over 10% of COVID-19 patients remain unwell for much longer. “Long COVID” is a new term used to describe persistent illness symptoms lasting longer than three weeks. Many different medications may be prescribed to support those suffering from this illness. Here we describe the typical categories of drugs used and how personalized medication optimization can facilitate recovery from long COVID.
Long COVID impacts breathing, energy, and mental health
Recent reports show that many COVID-19 survivors have significant ongoing health problems and have impaired ability to perform everyday tasks due to breathing difficulties and tiredness. Additionally, COVID-19 survivors have high rates of disease-related mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and reduced cognitive function.
Effects of COVID on younger patients
COVID-19 infection affects both lungs and cardiovascular systems. Even children and adolescents who suffered minimal respiratory symptoms during COVID infection experience abnormal blood clotting and inflammation of blood vessels. A small number have also developed symptoms of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). This condition has symptoms resembling those of Kawasaki disease or toxic shock syndrome.
Younger adults can also experience strokes or heart failure due to abnormal blood clotting from COVID. A clinical study of college athletes recovering from COVID-19 shows that 15% of individuals have clear signs of inflammation-induced heart damage.
Treatments for long COVID recovery
There are many different types of prescriptions drugs used to treat symptoms stemming from COVID-19. Blood thinners are used for 28% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients and help to facilitate recovery. Statins and ACE inhibitors have shown a protective effect in COVID-19 patients, while the use of specific heartburn drugs (known as PPIs) increases susceptibility to infections. Steroids and inhalers are prescribed to alleviate breathing difficulties. For most long COVID patients, these drugs will be required for several months. However, the use of medications is also associated with an increased risk of side effects, especially when multiple prescriptions are involved.
Everyone’s body responds differently to medications due to genetic factors. DNA analysis can reveal how your body metabolizes various medications and reduce your risk of drug-induced side effects. Personalized medication optimization can help identify which drugs and dosages are safest to facilitate your recovery from long COVID.
Pharmacogenetic tests, including Pillcheck, guide prescribing of many medications.
Blood thinners: warfarin, clopidogrel, apixaban and rivaroxaban reduce the risk of stroke. However, for people with specific genetic profiles, these drugs might cause bleeding or not work. DNA analysis can show which drugs will better fit your inherited drug metabolism.
Blood pressure medications: amlodipine, losartan, and irbesartan have anti-inflammatory effects and are recommended for people recovering from a heart attack. An incorrect dosage of antihypertensive can lead to fainting and increase risk of falls.
Antiarrhythmic drugs: dronedarone, metoprolol, nebivolol, and timolol are also prescribed to lower blood pressure and normalize the heartbeat.
Cholesterol-lowering drugs: atorvastatin, fluvastatin, lovastatin, pitavastatin, pravastatin, rosuvastatin, and simvastatin are prescribed to reduce the risk of heart disease. Up to 18% of statin users can develop drug-induced muscle and joint pain.
Inhalers: salmeterol is a part of most inhalers used for the treatment of asthma. Indacaterol is mostly prescribed for more severe lung disease COPD.
Antidepressants: If you are struggling to recover from COVID-19 complications and suffering from depression or PTSD, you may also be prescribed an antidepressant to improve your mental health. Genetics-based prescribing of anxiety and depression medications have been shown to accelerate recovery.
Personalized medication optimization for long COVID recovery
DNA analysis can help your doctor understand how your body metabolizes these drugs and predicts which medications better fit your genetic profile. With Pillcheck, a clinical pharmacist will review your genetic results and provide recommendations on your doctor’s treatment options. This information can facilitate your recovery from long COVID.
- Long COVID affects 10-15% of people who had both mild and severe cases of the disease.
- Long COVID can affect all ages, including young adults, children and the elderly.
- Multiple medications may be needed to treat persisting symptoms – variations in your DNA can increase your risk of side effects.
- Finding out your drug-metabolic profile with Pillcheck medication optimization helps avoid drug-induced side effects
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- Hallie C. Prescott and Timothy D. Girard Recovery From Severe COVID-19 Leveraging the Lessons of Survival From Sepsis 2020;324(8):739-740. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.14103
- How long does covid last? Covid symptom study. 8 Jun 2020.
- The Post-hospitalisation COVID-19 Study (PHOSP-COVID). https://www.phosp.org.