August 16, 2022

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Long Covid: Desperate patients shell out exorbitant sums for experimental ‘blood wash’ treatment

In a survey published in the UK, we learn that many patients with long-term Covid-19 are turning to private clinics in Cyprus, Germany and Switzerland for apheresis, a blood filtration treatment commonly used in patients with lipid disorders.

According to a survey conducted by British media outlet ITV News And published this July 12, thousands of people suffering from prolonged Covid-19 symptoms will travel abroad to receive expensive and unproven treatments such as “blood washing” or apheresis.

Existing research has found that “microclots” in the plasma of long-term Covid sufferers may be responsible for the symptoms that affect millions of people after a Covid-19 infection. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 10% to 20% of patients experience symptoms for at least two months after acute Covid-19 infection.

However, there is currently no treatment approved by the international medical community to combat this disease. Except for several months, unofficial treatment gives hope to patients. Apheresis involves inserting needles into each arm and passing the blood through a filter, separating the red blood cells from the plasma. The plasma is then filtered and returned to the body through another vein before being reunited with red blood cells.

Therefore, some doctors believe that apheresis and anticoagulant drugs are a promising answer for long-term treatment of Covid. But voices are already being raised to condemn the business practice, which goes against medical ethics. Because microclot is not yet proven to be the cause of prolonged covid illness.

Desperate patients risk spending exorbitant amounts on invasive and unproven treatments. In the scientific community, there is resistance against such an “experimental” treatment, which should only be carried out within the framework of a clinical trial.

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One of the patients followed by the press traveled to Cyprus to undergo a “blood washing” or apheresis treatment. On Facebook, in a group dedicated to long-term Covid patients, this Dutch woman discovered the protocol. He spent more than €50,000 on a medical trip to Cyprus but returned home with no improvement in his symptoms. At Positonia, a private clinic, he received six cycles of apheresis, nine cycles of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and intravenous infusions of vitamins.

Another clinic in Germany, located in Mülheim, is offering a similar apheresis treatment from February 2021 to patients with prolonged Covid-19 symptoms. According to the doctor in charge of the program, thousands of people have been successfully treated, the testimonies of which have been widely published on social networks. Admittedly, the clinic’s chief physician, Dr. Pete Jaeger, admits that this is an experimental treatment. But throughout clinical trials, doctors prefer to test the treatment directly on unsuspecting patients. The cost of the treatment will not exceed 10,000 euros, but this is already a large amount for an unauthorized treatment. Health risk must be taken into account.

Experts contacted by ITV News said more research is needed to understand how microclots form and whether they cause prolonged Covid symptoms. And patients should be particularly concerned about lack of follow-up when they leave clinics after being prescribed anticoagulants.